UI Main Library Learning Commons completion date delayed

BY EMMA WILLIS | JUNE 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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Construction has been the face of the University of Iowa Main Library for nearly a full year after construction began in November 2011.  

However, despite initial plans to finish a first-phase project by the beginning of the upcoming fall semester, the university community will have to wait a few more months to reap its full benefits.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the new space could now open as many as five months later than originally planned. He said that to date, construction should be completed Dec. 12, 2013.

“We’ll get there,” he said. “The hope is to be ahead of schedule.”

Moore, who said he remains hopeful about the construction, said that the library’s multiphase renovation might not be completed until the beginning of 2014.

In an Monday email statement, Facilities Management strategic communications manager Wendy Moorehead said the portion of the fifth floor undergoing renovation is on schedule to be completed in July 2013.

UI President Sally Mason had previously told the DI that the Learning Commons would be completed on time.

“It will be open for the fall semester,” she said in May. “They’re just putting the finishing touches on it now. I think they might do a soft opening during the summer just to make sure things work.”

The new first-floor space, called the Learning Commons, will feature 18 private group study rooms, an expanded Food for Thought Café, a 45-seat TILE classroom, 100 study desks, ITS services, wireless infrastructure, writeable wall surfaces, and space for 500 or more students in its 37,000 square feet.

Chris Clark, the UI learning-spaces technologies manager, presented the project’s details to the UI Student Government at a general Senate meeting in 2011.

During that meeting, original plans called for 20 private-group study areas, 150 desktop computers, in addition to the TILE classroom, café and space for more than 500 students.

With the kickoff of the fall semester, the new commons would be open for 24 hours each day between Sunday through Friday during both the fall and spring academic sessions.

The addition is also supposed to feature a 45-seat TILE classroom, which includes space for students to learn in a more engaging and active way using technology.

With a demand for small group study areas around campus, the entire project is meant to provide space for 500 more students.

Dave Martin, UI interim associate university librarian for services, said there has been nothing major to worry about in the construction of the addition to the building’s first floor.

“We’re at full speed ahead,” he said.

Martin said he believes the TILE classroom, small study areas, and Food for Thought Café will be ready to go when students start hitting the books during the first week of fall classes, with the computer and electronic installations finishing before the December deadline.

Martin said to his knowledge, no renovations have occurred in the Main Library since the 1970s.
When recent flooding to the UI campus became a potential risk, library staff chose to move books from the first floor to higher floors, where they remain today.

“We want to be on the safe side,” Martin said of the decision to return books to the first floor.

Despite the extended deadline, Martin said the $14.6 million budget remains the same as far as he knows.

“We meet every two weeks, and we get an update on how it’s going and what to expect, ” he explained. “It keeps everyone in the loop.”

Moore said the project is high priority for the university.

“This is one of our key projects,” he said. “It’s one of the initiatives aimed at [student] success.”

As the construction continues on the Learning Commons inside, the Main Library Cambus stop continues to remain relocated south of the building, directly across from the Lindquist Center on Madison Street.

Martin said although no precise timeline exists currently, officials hope the stop will return to outside the Main Library by the beginning of the fall semester.

According to Facilities Management, future Main Library plans include the renovation of 18,000 square feet on the building’s fifth floor in housing displaced library staff from the Learning Commons construction. Preliminary costs for that project total $1.4 million.

UI senior Helen Miller, a French and international studies major, said she hopes the Main Library construction will be favorable to student use.

“If it brings in more people, it’s a positive,” she said.

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