University News

U. seeks to expand study spaces in campus libraries

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 15, 2012

The University plans to refurbish and expand study spaces in University libraries, but the project remains on hold until ongoing renovations are completed. Proposed changes were identified after the University completed a review of available library spaces, said Harriet Hemmasi, librarian for the University. The review, conducted by the University libraries, Department of Facilities Management and other faculty members, was completed last May and recommended renovations to the John Hay Library, the Rockefeller Library, the Sciences Library and an off-campus storage annex that stores books. 

The University is currently renovating the Digital Scholarship Lab in the Rock, a project they hope to complete by fall 2012, Hemmasi said. The lab will feature a “high-definition, high resolution video wall” once renovations are complete, she said. 

The University also plans to start renovating the Reading Room and the University archives in the Hay next fall. It plans to begin refurbishing the computer space on the first floor of the Rock in the next two or three years, she said.

The University commissioned the study in light of the increased use of digital media over books and the heightened demand for group rather than individual study spaces, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president.

To accommodate the changing role of libraries, the study proposed increasing seating in the Hay and the Rock. The study also suggested an expansion of available study space in the SciLi, which would be achieved by relocating books to an off-campus site and opening the fourteenth floor for student use. 

“There literally are shelves after shelves of books that are not being used,” Associate Provost and Professor of Engineering Rod Beresford said. 

The University has transferred around 800,000 publications to an off-campus annex over the past five years, according to the University’s 2011 Institutional Master Plan. Currently, the annex is around two-thirds full and may eventually be expanded to one or two times its current size, Hemmasi said. But no specific plans for the expansion or for many of the other suggested renovations have been discussed, she said.

Before the renovations can begin, the University must find funding for the projects, something usually done through individual donors, Spies said. The University may be able to begin the renovations if they are supported under the next Capital Campaign, though the campaign’s agenda has not yet been set, Hemmasi said.

In the past few years, the University has completed several library renovations, including the Friedman Study Center and the Science Center in the SciLi. As a result, the number of students making use of university libraries has nearly doubled in the last few years, Hemmasi said.

The renovations are “a reflection of the changing needs of students and faculty,” Spies said. “We’re lucky, at Brown, to have the kinds of library facilities that we do that can be repurposed in this way.”