University News

Sciences Library could receive interior makeover

The top four floors could house a social sciences and a center for media production

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The University may repurpose the top four floors of the Sciences Library based on recommendations from the Campus Planning Advisory Board’s February report.

The project is still in the planning stages, and no official timeline has been set. Planners said they expect potential uses for the space to be decided after the University’s strategic planning process is complete.

Suggestions for the space have included a center for social sciences and data exploration and a science center focused on media production.

“There is a real connection between users, technology, space, faculty and the need for interaction,” said Daniel O’Mahony, director of library planning and assessment.

Most suggestions were intended to inspire further discussion about ways to remodel the space, O’Mahony said, and none have been discussed in depth.

Board members and University librarians told The Herald they believe the SciLi is inefficiently used. Almost all of the journals available in the stacks are also available online, said Tom Doeppner, a board member and associate professor of computer science.

“Why use important space that’s in the center of campus like a warehouse?” said Associate Provost Rod Beresford, the board’s chair. “That’s just not what libraries are anymore.”

Currently, the top four floors house three floors of stacks and the Center for Integrated Technology on the 14th floor. Beresford said the University should instead use libraries as places of interaction and collaboration.

“It wouldn’t make sense to put faculty offices in the library,” he said. “But it would make sense to have places for learning experiences.”

Co-leader of Integrated Technology Services Jean Rainwater said her department does not need to be working out of the SciLi. “We just go where they put us,” Rainwater said. “We knew it wasn’t permanent here.”

The department has been in the SciLi for two years, she wrote in a follow-up email to The Herald.

The Campus Planning Advisory Board is a collection of faculty members, staff members and students that acts a “sounding board” for public opinion, Doeppner said.

The board based its recommendations on the Library Planning Study’s Top Level Recommendations from May 2011, which sought to repurpose 5,000 square feet of the SciLi.

University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi said the idea is fairly uncontroversial and popular among those involved with discussions thus far.

“Sometimes things just jump out and you can’t ignore it anymore,” she said. “It’s like a force.”

Beresford said he does not expect any official plans until after the University finishes President Christina Paxson’s strategic planning process at the end of this year.

“When we see what initiatives come out of the University’s current strategic planning process,” Hemmasi said, “that could inform us of more possible uses for the space.”

While most people agree the repurposing is a good idea, “it’s a question of priority,” she said.

Planners said they are optimistic that the floors will be repurposed but that the ultimate decision of whether and when to appropriate funds for the project is up to the administration.

Beresford said such a sizeable expenditure needs significant infrastructure and support.

The volumes in the repurposed floors would be moved to the Library Collections Annex on 10 Park Lane — a difficult task, O’Mahony said. Each floor has about 50,000 volumes that would have to be tracked, recorded, transported and then reorganized. The annex may need to undergo expansion in order to fit so many new works, according to the Library Planning Study’s report.

O’Mahony said the process of moving the volumes would be expected to take an entire summer.

Hemmasi said students could expect less dramatic plans to refurbish the SciLi in the near future. She said the restrooms and the “old, tacky, small study corrals,” which are original furniture from 1971, both need improvement.

Beresford said students may expect those changes much sooner, because they will not be tied to the strategic planning.

Stephen Gervais, who has been the library clerk and checkout attendant at the SciLi for three years, said overcrowding is a “chronic issue,” especially during reading periods.

Some students expressed interest in more collaborative study spaces during such crowded times. Kristen Gardner ’15 said she feels like she is “always vying for a room” just to study with her peers.

Samuel Kortchmar ’16 said he would like to see a nice study space with computers.

“In the basement, if you are working on a computer collaboratively with people, you get yelled at for being too loud,” he said. “We need rooms with whiteboards and computers.”

But other students said they would miss the isolated nature of the stacks. “Some people think it’s depressing in the stacks, but I prefer it,” said Justin Miller ’15.

Carolyn Maiorana ’13.5 said she almost always studies on the silent 13th floor. “It’s nice and discreet,” she said. “I like to be able to get in the zone.”

4 Comments

  1. Sizeable Expenditure? says:

    Please please please don’t burn my tuition money on this. Students would benefit much more from graduating with fewer student loans than a handful of elaborate collaborative study spaces. Students who need places for studying together could so easily study in any of the hundreds of open classrooms on campus, and the scili is a great place for working quietly does not need these costly changes

  2. Where's the vision? says:

    Don’t do this without a well-conceived master plan. If we’re “going vertical” then use the sci-li as a transitional space while an architecturally attractive humanities or social sciences tower is built.

    Conceive of a project, raise money, then start shuffling departments temporarily in the sci-li. An isolated, permanent move to the sci-li will be the death knell of whatever department is rehoused.

    • Demolish it. It’s a blight on campus and will last forever without the will to replace it. Raise money and build a Cathedral of Learning for the humanities/social sci.

  3. inspire me says:

    Why is the focus of libraries “interaction and collaboration”? Why isn’t it focused studying and providing quiet, inspired study space? I can collaborate in the Ratty and in dorm lounges. I can’t study in my room with my insane roommate always in my face.

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