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Renovations to restore the John Hay Library's reading room to its original size have ignited tensions among library staff members.

Once a large open space used for general study and rare book viewing, the reading room is now partitioned into three sections, with only the middle one available for student use.

But the renovations will restore the room to its original state. "We want the space to be open and inviting to the public," said Alison Bundy, senior library associate specialist. According to an April 22 Herald article, a gift of about $6 million will cover the cost of the renovations.

Opening the space could create security concerns for the library's rare book and manuscript collections, said Andy Moul, library associate specialist. "I'd like to see a really large, comfortable space utilizing that glorious reading room, but I'd also like to see a lot of thought go into the security of our books," Moul said.

The Hay's restrictions for viewing rare books are already looser than those of most rare books libraries. Rules may slacken even further with the new renovations. Students now must leave their bags in lockers before entering the reading room, but University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi said that rule may disappear after renovations. "My feeling is it should be a natural environment," Hemmasi said.

Even the administration is not entirely clear on the changes, said Bill Monroe, senior scholarly resources librarian. Monroe said he is hopeful but does not understand the impetus for such a large project at this time. "When the reading room was larger, in its original state, this was the University library, so that was the reading room. It had to be large," he said. Now, "We don't need that amount of space."

But Hemmasi said she is happy to "be able to give this space back to the campus."

Hay workers have also seen their offices relocated as a result of the changes. To accommodate the reading room's larger size, the first floor of the library will no longer house offices. Some faculty members will move to the top floor, while others will move to the Rockefeller Library. Such changes will distance the close-knit staff, Moul said.

"The number of things that have to be done for renovation, added to the regular semester workload, creates tension over what's the most important thing to do," he added.

While the Special Collections Department, which oversees the University archives, is housed in the same building, it is structurally a separate organization. During the renovation, this line will blur, and "everyone is learning everyone's job," Moul said.

Though final details of the renovations are still being worked out, Moul said he would like to have more details, especially because special collections are such a careful operation. Many are unclear about the project's aims, Moul said.

The renovations have been slow to start. Half the pledged funds are not yet in hand, and further delays are expected, Hemmasi said.


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