Officials: Main Library construction won't disrupt students

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JUNE 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Though the second phase of construction for the new learning commons at the University of Iowa Main Library was expected to start in May, UI officials say construction is on track to be completed in August 2013.

The first floor of the Main Library will be converted into the new learning commons, which will be 37,000-square-feet of student study space. The space will include around 18 group-study spaces, 100 desktop and laptop computers, a 45-seat TILE classroom, and study space to accommodate more than 500 students, The Daily Iowan has previously reported. The cost to renovate the space will be $14.5 million.

Chris Clark, the UI learning-spaces technologies manager, said the start of construction was roughly scheduled for May or June.

"I know we are still on track to meet our goal of end construction next August," he said.

Construction over the summer and fall will only modestly affect students, he said.

"The space we're really working on, students don't really use that much [right now]," he said.

The only major disruption so far was the hole cut into the second floor, which displaced a few study areas.

"We had to cut a hole in the second floor to make the ceilings higher in the learning commons," Clark said.

Kristi Bontrager, the public-relations coordinator for UI Libraries, said she does not think students will even notice the construction.

The only inconvenience for students will be the south entrance closing on July 13. That door will be closed for an entire year until construction is complete. The south circulation desk will also close for good.

"Right now when you come to the library there are a lot of desks and places you can go to get your questions answered," Bontrager said. "When [construction] is finished, there will be one service desk where all services will be integrated."

Clark said there are two phases of the renovation. The first phase entails moving the library staff that will be displaced by the learning commons to the fifth floor. This has been happening since winter.

One big change that will be made in the renovation is the expansion of the Food for Thought station.

"It is going to be more of a café instead of a hole in the wall," Clark said.

There will be more options than there are currently, he said, including espresso service and made-to-order sandwiches. Students who have purchased meal plans will be able to use their meal swipes at the café.

Another addition to the learning commons will be new group study rooms, which will number around 18. Clark said some rooms will have computers and technology available in them, and some will be just tables and chairs.

The learning commons website is linked to the library's Facebook page and provides viewers with a virtual walk-through tour.

According to the website, the learning commons will be open 24 hours a day and will have high-speed wireless Internet connection.

Bontrager said she is most excited about the smaller learning spaces that will be in the corners of the learning commons.

"There are these places where you can do a small-group presentation that is going to be a perfect space for if you want to do a drop-in workshop," she said.

UI junior Lana Godlewski said she uses the library most when she needs a sense of urgency and focus of getting her work completed.

"I will definitely use the study rooms," she said. "I feel like a lot of the rooms in the library [currently] are secluded and dark," she said. "Although the café may be a little distracting."

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