UI Main Library faced a construction setback over spring break


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People entering the University of Iowa Main Library are greeted by sounds of construction hidden behind a tack board wall displaying promising renderings of new study spaces.

And despite a setback over the UI’s spring break, officials say the work for a new Learning Commons is going well and will provide students with much-needed amenities.

“The collaboration among the departments is great, and we’re trying to provide an interactive learning environment,” said Jeff Harney, senior construction project manager. “I think it’s going to allow the students to collaborate in a new way with the technology and environment in general.”

The project recently hit a snag when concrete in the 1950s portion of the building began to break apart on the surface. While officials are unsure of the time lost during this complication, the $14.6 million budget will be unaffected.

“It wasn’t something we expected to happen,” said Chris Clark, the Learning Commons project manager. “The concrete coming apart on the surface had to set the project back on delay, but I’m not sure how long yet.”

The Learning Commons is set to be available for students between August and September. Officials aim to have construction finished by November.

Construction crews removed roughly 2 inches of old concrete before replacing the layer with new concrete.

The Learning Commons will include 18 study group spaces, 100 desks, and a 45-seat TILE classroom.

The project will provide roughly 37,000-square-feet of space with the ability to fit the needs of 500 students. Additionally, it will be available 24 hours, five days a week.

Other amenities will include digital signs to help students find specific places on campus and wireless infrastructure and walls for students to write on.

The north lobby will be next to undergo construction in phase two of the project. It remained open during the first phase to provide an entrance to the building because phase one closed the east and south entrances.

“It’s just challenging to do a full construction project in a building that’s being occupied,” Harney said. “That in itself is a challenge, but we knew that going in.”

The new library entrance facing Madison Street will be more accessible to the UI cambus stop.

As construction continues, two UI freshmen look forward to the completion of the renovations.

“It sounds like it would pretty cool or helpful,” UI freshman Roxanne Dudovitz said, adding she did not believe the library is currently adequate.

The UI has taken initiatives to fix space issues, but they’re only temporary.

“As a Band-Aid, we’ve tried to create some group study rooms on the second floor, but these are going to be text-infused rooms,” said Kristi Bontrager, the manager of public relations for UI Libraries.

But for some students, Band-Aids aren’t enough.

Dudovitz and fellow freshman Zahra Khan said they usually went to the Blank Honors Center for group projects because the library fails to meet the space needs, but the updates would be appealing for students.

“I don’t go the library often in general, but [with the Learning Commons], I would go anytime I had a group project,” Khan said.

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