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Windward Community College has a new heart. It’s a place for students to gather, collaborate, study and learn. A three story, 69-thousand square foot Library Learning Commons named Hale Laʻakea or Hall of Enlightment.

“I love it,” said Windward student Gianna Malia Maugeri. “It’s beautiful.”

“I’m stoked on it,” agreed fellow student Dallas Morgan. “Itʻs a really good experience.”

“It means a lot because now I have an actual place to study because our old library was so small and it just didn’t feel right,” said Windward student Kayleen Sur.

“When students walk in here, they’ve got that look of wonderment and amazement and just the sheer delight of knowing that we are really in college now,” said Windward Chancellor Doug Dykstra.

Construction started in 2010 and Hale Laʻakea was opened at the start of the 2012 fall semester. A blessing and grand opening was held to mark the completion of the 22 million dollar project, which replaced an 80-year old structure. Now the college’s library, computing services, media center and student services and labs that used to be scattered across the campus are all in one, very impressive building.

“A lot of us put a lot of hard work, our energy and we built this beautiful structure and we have a place for students to learn and study,” said Windward Head Librarian Nancy Heu.

The project was a decades old dream first conceived when libraries were quiet, strict places. Hale Laʻakea is a contemporary learning environment with it’s own coffee shop.

“It’s amazing. I actually got a caramel frappe today and it just feels way better,” said Morgan. “You know the library before was nice but it was really tiny and there is so much room here so it feels great.”

“Now we have this place where we could focus more, we have a bunch of computers, the printer is all set for us and the coffee shop so it’s pretty great,” agreed Sur.

The library also has longer hours now and is the first green library in the University of Hawai’i System with photovoltaic panels, a design that uses the natural light and much, much more. 80 percent of the building it replaced was recycled and much of it was reused in Hale Laʻakea.

“The benches are recycled. and everything is recycled and I see recycling upstairs, it’s awesome,” said Maugeri.

Administrators say this is just a beginning. The college hopes that the Hale Laʻakea is a magnet that brings the community to the campus as Windward looks to continue to expand it programs and facilities for things like Hawaiian Studies and biotechnology.

“We also want to get in on the ground floor on sustainable agriculture, aquaponics,” said Dykstra.

Another dream that will one day become a reality…like Hale Laʻakea.

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