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Library renovation progress: slowed, but steady

Though hampered by heavy rains, work on the Latimer Family Library continues to reshape the center of Saint Vincent’s campus. Much of the work of tailoring the collection for the new space has been completed, and the focus is now shifting to the construction itself.

As we reported last semester, the size of the collection is being cut by about 20% as part of the renovation. In large part, the purpose of this reduction is to obtain room for new material by removing obsolete textbooks, duplicates, and books with extremely low circulation. Many books aren’t being discarded, though: some went to academic departments, while many are available for the taking on designated shelves in the library. The library has largely been successful in offloading the books, explained Assistant Director Denise Hegemann.

“We’re noticing quite a few finding new homes. We have people who come back regularly [. . .] we’re glad to know that these books are finding a home where they’ll be appreciated [. . . .] I think a pretty good percentage of what has been removed has been taken,” she said.

Freshman international business major Drew Forthman is one of the students who keep coming back. Recently, he was delighted to find a 14-volume illustrated encyclopedia of European art history, published in Vienna in the 1920s and 30s and written in German. But he’s disappointed to see so many books go, even if they are ones no one will read.

“There are hundreds of novels that probably no one has read since the day they were bought, there are stacks of those that are being given away, and nobody’s really taking those [. . .] there’s very little use for the books they’re giving out, which is very sad,” he said.

The physical changes to the library are substantial. According to Hegemann and floor plans available on Saint Vincent’s website, the new library will consist of two levels with three floors. Construction work is currently taking place in front of the library along the pedestrian walkway to build a new entrance and atrium, expanding the current yellow level to become the main level for classrooms and the new circulation desk. The stacks will be housed on an upper floor of that level.

Once that’s finished, the upper floor will be renovated with study spaces, staff offices, a rare book storage and display room, and a new art gallery along with additional storage space for the college’s art collection. Getting the gallery done quickly is a priority, Hegemann explained, because the current gallery will soon be recomissioned.

“[The current gallery] will be a lab in connection with the new nursing program,” she said. “So the art gallery has to be out in time for the nursing program, although I don’t think they’ll need it next fall.”

The renovation is divided into phases. The current work on the front is phase one. Phase three is scheduled to end by fall of 2020. But the first phase has suffered some delays, Hegemann explained.

“The project itself started a month or two later than they anticipated, because of the time it took to hire the contractors. The weather has not been the best, with a lot of rain. And they ran into issues with utilities not always being how they were on the maps that they were given,” she said. Still, though, the project could end on time, she explained, as the contractors think that phases two and three may not take as long as expected.

However, it will be necessary to close the library for a while once phase two, the work on the upper level, gets underway, Hegemann acknowledged. That could extend into the fall of 2019.

“Phase two, which is supposed to be next summer, is when this part [the lower level, upper floor] gets built. We pretty much feel like that closes off access to library resources [. . .] but summertime, we don’t need much. We don’t know e

xactly when all the books from blue and yellow have to be moved and whether there will be time to get those moved and reshelved before fall of 2019 [. . . .] In an ideal world, we could get all those books moved and relocated before fall starts. Reality leads me to believe that may not happen,” she said.

Still, she noted, the library’s growing Ebook collection could serve as a backup, and, if necessary, alternative access plans could be made to allow professors to retain access to required items for both themselves and their students.

For the time being, though, the library is still humming along, even if the construction noise has driven a few students away, like senior math major Ben Watt.

“I've been studying more in my room this semester than ever, especially, I think, because of the changes around the library. It's just not easy to follow a subtle argument in Aquinas when the jackhammers are going in the basement,” he said.

But, he added, “I want to commend the library staff for putting up with the construction disruption all day every day, and keeping the place running for us.”

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