UI Main Library may get facelift


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University of Iowa students reportedly want to see a more "student-friendly" space at the UI Main Library.

So UI officials are developing a $14.6 million project to create that atmosphere.

The renovation would include more study rooms, an expanded Food for Thought Café, remodeled restrooms, and a Madison Street entrance in the library's first floor.

The project will be funded through the university's general-education building-repair funds and the university fire- and environmental-safety funds.

Chris Clark, the project manager for the Main Library Learning Commons project, said UI students have been involved in several stages of the early planning and design.

"We're presenting basic concepts of what they are trying to do for the Main Library Learning Commons project and finding what students like and don't like and having them give insight," Clark said.

The Dean's Student Advisory Committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — a 15-member group that provides feedback to administrators on various issues affecting UI undergraduates — has had a significant amount of student input throughout the planning process, said President Sunny Kothari.

UI sophomore Nick Rolston, a member of the Advisory Committee, said the panel attended a meeting with library staff last fall to discuss the early stages of the project.

He said other universities have used library facilities as a "central hub" for studying and student life. He said he noticed many students prefer to use the IMU as the main study area on campus.

 "A lot of people don't use the library right now because it's not student-friendly," Rolston said. "To me, it feels really confusing."

Rolston said that after speaking with Clark, architects hope to make the first floor feel more open by putting in places for group study, individual study, and for students to congregate.

In addition to the committee, Clark said, officials have used student focus groups for more input.

Clark also said the UI has looked at numerous other learning commons across the country as a model for the new developments.

If approved, Kothari said, construction would likely begin in the summer of 2012 and be completed by the fall of 2013.

Kothari said having student feedback is an important aspect of the project, because students largely utilize the library.

"Committees such as ours are instrumental in the development of a university project," Kothari said. "The Main Library is a building for the students, and likewise, it's important to take what the students want into consideration."

If approved, Kothari said library users will still be able to work in the space once construction begins.

UI officials will seek approval for the reconstruction at the state Board of Regents meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Cedar Falls.

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