By Chloe M. Brown
SAN ANTONIO—If you’ve been to the library lately, you’ll notice new furniture; however, after talking with librarian Judith Larson, the furniture is just the beginning of big changes ahead. Over the next five years, the library is planning to implement a renovation plan that will improve all three floors of the library and create an inviting environment for students.
The process started with working with an interior design firm for libraries out of Austin. This firm has attended almost all the meetings for the direction in which the library will move and paid close attention to what the focus groups had asked for. When the firm came back, they presented furniture options that they believed were going to meet the needs of the focus groups. Three of these focus groups were with students: undergraduates, weekend students and graduates. Other focus groups were formed of faculty, library staff and student support staff.
“We felt like we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted. I bought some of the furniture, to just try it out and see what people had thought,” said Larson. Some of the study rooms now have desks and chairs on wheels, diversifying mobility options for students. The library staff was looking for some soft furniture that would make the space more comfortable. “The objective is to replace the wood furniture with items that are more useful, more functional, more comfortable. Our objective is to make the library more of an inviting place to be and to come and study,” said Larson.
Larson believes that the improvements to the library will create a more functional area than what the library currently offers. By the end of the semester, Judith Larson hopes to work with Danny Axel and Darrell Glasscock to create a master plan for the project.
“I’ve been working with an architectural firm Piwonka Sturrock to create a master building plan,” said Larson. “As they came through, reviewed the building and examined it–everything from the way it functioned to the way it was built—they identified the same issues that Darrel Glasscock and I had when we walked through the building together. We have a problem with flooding, drainage, pigeons; a lot of noise, wasted space, and the furniture was out of date. We hired them to help us identify what the needs were,” said Larson.
Piwonka Sturrock works with the city of San Antonio, and Larson met them when the library requested a fire code modification to add an additional stairway from the first floor to the main entrance. The problem is that there is a code issue with the city. By adding a staircase, it changes the fire exits. Right now, the first floor has no connection to the second and third floor.
The library has received many questions, as people are confused about where the library may be. Adding in the staircase is a big part of the project, since it will make the building easier to navigate. Even the architects found the building confusing and difficult to navigate.
Some of the other projects that the library wants to pursue are moving up the mural and creating additional open floor space on the third floor. They would also do the same thing with the open circle at the front of the third floor. This does a couple of things: it reduces the noise that reverberates from the second floor, and creates additional floor space that could allow for more study rooms. The new study rooms would differ in size so that students could potentially fit 20 people.
Other improvements include adding a coffee bar or beverage bar at the front entrance of the library. The beverage bar would be one of the first things people see when they come up the renovated staircase. It will connect to the front area, so that others can see more of the building than just the ground floor. In addition to the beverage bar, they’d like to make the front doors glass doors, so that students can see when they come up from the outside and where they are going.
In addition, there are plans in the works to enlarge the 24-hour lab, expanding and adding a venue with tables and chairs. The library community room would split in half. One-half would be a computer lab for undergraduate students and the other half for graduate students. Graduate students stated that they would really like to have their own space and the lab configure differently, since they have different needs. Access to the labs would require a student ID and have the proper restrictions.
The architects are waiting on the city to give their decision on whether the staircase renovations will take place. Only after the city makes its decision, will the architects start costing out these various projects and putting them into an order that the library could get them done.
There is a lot of support for these projects from the president on down. However, the library will need the support of the OLLU community to accomplish all of their projects. A couple of years ago, the library instituted a library fee, the money is split 50/50 between for library operations and other half is going into a savings account to pay for these projects. Frankly, some of these projects the library fee will not cover. The library must do a little fundraising to cover all of the renovations. Once the master plan is finished then the library will have a better idea of what the cost might be. Currently, even the architects’ estimates of the products are guesses. Students and staff should all look forward to the improvements to the library that will come in the next few years.