Carrier Library renovations will cost $95.7 million, all funded by a capital project fund approved by the Virginia government. 


There are over 400,000 collection items in Carrier Library.

From books on the arts, social sciences and humanities, to special collections on the Shenandoah Valley to study spaces for students, Carrier Library is a hub of community and information. And now, it’s getting a major makeover. 

JMU will begin Carrier renovations in the summer of 2023, with an anticipated reopen date in fall 2026. While JMU has added a variety of libraries and other facility renovations over the years, this is the first major renovation of Carrier in 28 years.

When Carrier Library first opened Sept. 22, 1939 — called Madison Memorial Library at the time — it had a seating capacity of 350 and cost $140,000 to construct and furnish. Now, renovating Carrier will cost $95.7 million, all funded by a capital project fund approved by the Virginia government. 

Carrier’s first expansion was completed in 1982, adding an additional 67,000 square feet, which more than doubled the original building. Madison Memorial Library was officially renamed Carrier Library two years later after JMU’s fourth president, Ronald Carrier. 

In 1982, the historic entrance in Carrier was opened for the first time, and in 1993, a $4.1 million renovation for the addition of a third floor began, which was completed in 1994. Carrier was also updated with new study rooms and furniture in 2012 and 2016.

The renovation, prompted by concerns about accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, crowding, safety and general navigability, has been in the works since 2017. Bethany Nowviskie, the dean of libraries, said when considering the renovation, JMU Libraries  wants to consider “universal design” that goes beyond the legal requirements set by the ADA. 

“In a nutshell, it means that every service and space as much as we can make it is equitably accessible to everybody so we think about accessibility for people up front,” Nowviskie said. 

Universal design includes thinking about decisions typically considered in ADA decisions like ramps and elevators, but also the furniture put into the building, types of finishes, floors and trying to build accessibility into every decision. Nowviskie said the library has a universal design committee that includes Office of Disability Services (ODS) representatives and other faculty and staff members that focus on accessibility. The committee helped expose building decisions that impact accessibility that not everyone had thought of before, like how someone with low vision navigates a staircase. 

Kelly Miller-Martin, who leads the facility operations team in the “management and coordination of building operations and libraries facility planning,” said there are lessons learned from living in Carrier for as long as JMU has, like findability of resources in the building. 

“Carrier can be tricky to navigate, both physically and spatially, and we are truly excited to create a more easily navigable and intuitive building in the future Carrier,” Miller-Martin said in an email. 

The new Carrier

So, what will this new Carrier look like? The biggest addition is an extension of the library to Grace Street, where it’ll be visible from the roadway. Nowviskie said it’ll be full of windows, creating a light and airy space that will welcome everyone. Students will be able to walk straight through the building, Nowviskie said, rather than Carrier serving as a barrier that has to be walked around. 

“A library is an intellectual crossroads for any institution that it’s part of,” Nowviskie said, “and this library will now be a literal crossroads for JMU.” 

An “overhead artist’s conception of the Carrier Library site plan” created by JMU's architects, RAMSA and Moseley, shows both the extent of the new construction planned and how the current building will be incorporated.

On the south side of Carrier, facing D-Hall and the Hillcrest House, an additional curve will be added to tie the whole building together, rather than looking like a “Frankenstein” of a building from the outside, Nowviskie said. In addition to the expansion of the Carrier building, terraces and outdoor spaces will be added, all with the intent of accessibility tied in. 

On the interior of the newest north side addition of Carrier, students will have access to a swipe-in 24-hour space and cafe. Nowviskie said while JMU Libraries doesn’t control the dining contracts, the plan is for the cafe to stay a Starbucks. 

The second floor will hold a variety of resources, including technology-infused classrooms, special collections, a makerspace, video and podcasting studios and more. The second floor will also be the newest home of the Furious Flower Poetry Center. The third floor will hold a “grand reading room.” Two main service desks — both a generalized desk and a specialized desk for topics like educational technology — will be included. Universal bathrooms will be on every floor, and there will be teaching spaces and bookable meeting rooms spread throughout the building.           


Artist's composite of the future entrance on the southwest interest of Carrier, facing D-Hall and Hillcrest 

Much of what is planned for the renovated Carrier comes from student input, Nowviskie said. JMU Libraries held student focus groups, which had students share what they were looking for from the new additions. One example is the addition of microwaves for students who don’t have meal plans or need to heat up food. 

Renovation prep           

With the sheer amount of books, furniture and equipment held in Carrier, prepping for renovation is a feat. Miller-Martin said the preparation has already begun, with the small facilities team doing inventories to keep track of everything in Carrier, like furniture. Miller-Martin said the team is thinking through where resources will live during the renovation. 

“Our libraries work together, right? So, if there’s something that’s in this building that will no longer be necessary, it might be able to support some of the spaces in Rose [Library],”  Miller-Martin said. 

For the over 400,000 collection items, or over 30,000 linear feet of materials, Miller-Martin said, the library is already working with contractors that specialize in moving library collections. Miller-Martin said the group will physically load all of the items, move and unpack items in a specific order, with clear descriptive labels. Library staff are anticipating the majority of the move will occur in the weeks immediately after commencement, but are working to identify preparatory moves that can happen without disrupting materials for users. Materials will live in D-Hub for the time being. 

Not everything will be moved out of Carrier and put back exactly the way it was, though. 

“We’re really being thoughtful and working through all the liaison librarians and their departments to understand which parts of the collection really want to live in which building and be most useful and accessible to the people that are looking for them,” Miller-Martin said. 

In addition to the thousands of collection items and furniture, JMU Libraries has 87 staff members, meaning new spaces will need to be found for all 87. Miller-Martin said JMU Space Management has been an “invaluable partner” as they work to find additional space for staff to live temporarily.  

In the meantime                                                             

While Carrier may be closed for renovations, the library’s resources will still be available for students and faculty on campus, Nowviskie said. 

Nowviskie said a lot will happen out of Rose and other library locations, and that other spaces on campus will open up. The libraries keep data on how spaces are used, both through traffic counters in entrances and manual data collection by staff, which will help make decisions for study spaces both in the interim and for future study spaces. For example, Miller-Martin wrote in an email that “the quiet seats on Carrier 3rd floor are often filled at a higher percentage of total capacity compared to the study seats on the 2nd floor, even though the second floor of Carrier can feel busier.” 

Nowviskie said the libraries are working with Student Affairs to create more study spaces, with the knowledge from data, to provide all types of study spaces needed for students, from quiet spaces to spaces with little noise. 

“We are not going to leave students high and dry without spaces to study,” Nowviskie said, “to just sort of socialize, to have to do group work, you know, all the sorts of things that you do in the libraries are getting accounted for.” 

Students and faculty can still access materials through the JMU library mail services. Students will be able to select a delivery location and pick it up. Both Miller-Martin and Nowviskie said they’ll lean into virtual services developed during the pandemic. 

Various students said they were both nervous and excited for the Carrier renovation. Some said they would miss the old-school feel, but that renovations for accessibility were good. 

Aubrey Clark, a sophomore media arts and design (SMAD) major, was sitting on the second floor of Carrier with her two friends, where she said that while she was sad that she wouldn’t have Carrier to study for the rest of her college career, she was excited to see what Carrier would look like after the renovation. 

“We looked up a picture the other day on the website and it looks beautiful,” Clark said. 

Abby Watson, a senior health sciences major, said she thought Carrier needed to be renovated.

“I see other colleges, like I live near Liberty University, and their college libraries are way nicer,” Watson said. “My friends from other schools come here and they think it’s horrible.” 

Nowviskie said for students that want to impact the future of Carrier, the libraries have student advisory groups to give their input, and that student advocacy has been important for aspects of the new renovation. Either way, Nowviskie said the library isn’t going anywhere. 

“We are really going to be here for students and faculty in the way that we always are,” Nowviskie said. “Just the fact that this building is going to be shut for a few years while it’s getting its tremendous sort of makeover doesn’t mean that your library has disappeared.” 

Contact Ashlyn Campbell at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.