Concerns over library renovations

Share on Facebook
Tweet on Twitter

The construction at the Zahnow Library has received mixed reviews from students and staff since renovations began in the fall.

With the approval of a $12 million renovation project in December 2015, plans were originally for crews to begin working in the early summer. However, planning and delays pushed the renovations to the beginning of the fall semester instead.

The construction has caused much controversy for students and faculty as the construction has made an entire floor of the Zahnow Library inaccessible, caused blocked hallways that students would otherwise use to get between classes, and moved around facilities such as the Center for Academic Achievement.

“While I’m not opposed to the renovations and understand that they will improve the overall quality of the university, they have caused a great deal of distress this semester for both students and staff,” fourth-year pre-physical therapy major Chantala Kumar said.

“As a student tutor in the Center for Academic Achievement, I’ve witnessed tutoring sessions interrupted by drill noises [and] less students coming to the Center due to less space. It feels as though the interests of the institution have been placed ahead of the needs and success of our current students. Many of these problems could have been alleviated by completing the renovations during a spring/summer semester when the library is not in such use.”

Library Director Anita Dey said there were many factors that played into the renovations and their timing, including time-sensitive funding, construction bids, architect negotiating, design approvals and weather.

“I’m not really in the upper-level decision making, but we were scheduled to begin on May 7, but I think that projects like this are so much more complicated than we really know,” Dey said. “They really wanted to be careful about the design to make sure that we got what we wanted, so the process to get those approved is pretty complicated. The big thing was when the money had to be spent and when the decisions had to be made, but there were a lot of factors that went into it, and I think the timing was more or less unforeseeable.”

The floors and halls are planned to be re-opened at the beginning of the winter semester, with additional construction starting in May 2017 to finish the renovation.

Moreover, study rooms have become offices for faculty, the elevator has been out-of-order frequently, computer labs have been removed and students have been bothered by the noise of the construction.

An email sent on Sept. 28 by University Communications to all students stating that all bathrooms in the library would be closing on October 3rd until the end of the semester. Since then, the university has instead chosen to only shut off bathrooms when necessary.

“I feel the general reception is pretty negative. With the noise, cramped space, and closed bathrooms, it feels chaotic and students are struggling with the change,” psychology and creative writing senior and Writing Center tutor KayLee Davis said. “The biggest thing it does is create a lot of noise during sessions. Sometimes I have to stop during a session and wait for the noises to stop. It really impacts my concentration as a tutor and distracts students.”

Both Davis and Kumar, however, are students who work in the library. While they must deal with the difficulties of the renovations, general students do not.

They do, however, still feel inconvenienced by the renovations.

“I think the library renovations are good, but they can be an inconvenience at times because the main place I enjoy to study is the fourth floor in which half is sectioned off,” fourth-year mechanical engineering student Brad Schneider said. “It’ll be great when it’s done, but it would be nice if the bathrooms were still running and there was more room on the fourth floor.”

Second-year nursing student Kayla Desotelle said she was glad the library was moving toward a better future but wished the renovations had been completed during the summer when there were fewer students around.

“It has been really noisy in there since the renovations, which makes it harder to concentrate,” she said. “Also, there aren’t as many spaces to study in as there were before. But hopefully it will be done soon – it could be worse.”

Despite the inconveniences, it appears students are hopeful for when the renovations are done, and concerns are about the timing of the renovations.

Dey took initiative in hearing student and faculty concerns and then responding to needs that arise. For example, because computers have been removed, the library has purchased 30 laptops that can be checked out at the circulation desk on the first floor for up to four hours for any students.

“They also opened the math lab right outside of the library to be an open lab outside of class hours, and they also added more to the library around the windows, to give students a few more of those computers,” she said.

Dey wants to assure students and faculty that once the renovations are done, the results will not only be pleasing, but will fulfill a lot of desires students have had for the library and requests that have been put forth.

“We’re talking more spaces to study, and places where you can reserve them yourself,” Dey said. “Technology will be at your fingertips in some of these rooms.”

There will also be more space on the first floor when Albert E’s and the library are connected, and there will be an area known as Main Street where there will be more tables, a video wall and spaces for people to eat and study.

Likewise, there will be more group study rooms, printing rooms with scanners, a viewing room for the archives, and more food options.

With the renovations, Main Street on the first floor of the library will not close, and students will have access to it outside of regular library hours.

“I don’t think they could have done it any different, and no amount of foresight could have helped,” Dey said. “By the time the money was secure, and we figured out what we wanted to have done, and of course you have to negotiate it. We did a lot of research to see what was out there to bring back what students would like.”