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UI Main Library renovations set back to Dec. 2013

BY LAUREN COFFEY | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Renovations at the UI library have been underway for eight months — though it’s hard to notice.

In what officials are calling a major renovation — set to be completed in December 2013 — students will be able to continue studying in their outdated-looking first floor for a while, as construction workers focus their renovations on the basement.

But they will be pushed out. Eventually. And when that happens, officials are excited about the student collaboration that will take place.

The Main Library has undergone renovations since January. The project was originally going to be completed in August 2013, but that date recently was pushed back to December 2013. Officials say despite the setback, they are still on budget — approximately $14. 5 million.

UI officials have noticed over the past few years an increase in the number of students studying in groups, which spurred them to renovate the library to accommodate students.

“There are libraries transitioning across the country,” said Christopher Clark, the director of learning spaces technology at the library. “Many students have an active collaborative environment even if they don’t have group projects. We also needed to provide students with a space to study after the flood [of 2008], which took away a lot of space.”

Some students have had problems studying in the library because of a lack of space and too much noise. 

“I think it’s a really good idea [to make improvements in the library],” UI junior Bethany Keane said. “I actually in the past two years have only been to the library like maybe five times because it’s so loud. I normally go to the [College of Law] library, where it’s super quiet.”

Clark said the first two phases of the project — renovations to the fifth floor to house library staff — have been completed.  Construction is now focused on removing asbestos.

“Most of the time-consuming construction will take place in the basement,” he said. “We need to do things such as fixing the electricity, installing new air conditioner, and we’re going to have new restrooms, so we’ll have to have new plumbing for that.”

The café at the library will also get an update.

“The new café will be wonderful,” Clark said. “There will be an espresso machine and sandwiches that you can buy with your meal plan.”

Afterwards, work will begin to create a learning commons that will cover 37,000 square feet on the first floor, with 18 group study spaces, to have a capacity to hold 500 to 600 students.

There will also be a consolidated help desk for students instead of separate desks to handle different issues.

“Each room will have a reservable touch screen, or you could go online and reserve a space for a block of time,” Clark said. “That way, it lets us evaluate how the rooms are being used as well as not have someone have a room for a huge block of time.”

The learning commons will also be open 24 hours.

Officials plan to use the learning commons to hold academic workshops in which students can come and go as they please.

“We would have workshops such as how students can get the most out of ICON,” Clark said. “Students could come and go — we wouldn’t want it to be like a formal classroom setting.”

The renovations to the library will be somewhat similar to the commons in Van Allen, which UI officials have been experimenting with to see what works and what doesn’t.

Officials hope the changes being made will help the students have more of a conversation with others and help with group projects.

“I’ve never had a problem [studying at the library],” UI junior Tim Schulz said. “But that would be pretty nice, to have a quiet place to study your own little pod and get some privacy. It’s not needed, but if the university wants to, it can spend money to improve things.”


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