Many have inquired about the length of the upcoming renovation project and asked why it cannot be done during semester breaks or over the summer. In an effort to be open about how and why these decisions were made, let me share with you a little about the magnitude of this project.
The current library building has not been renovated in more than 40 years and its existing design would be far from compliant with building codes if up for consideration today. Unfortunately, the scope of this project (which includes complete replacement of the entire heating and air conditioning systems, complete replacement of the electrical supply and distribution systems and likely removal of asbestos that would be exposed by the renovation) will not allow us to remain in our current building due to hazardous conditions for books, library staff and students. Relocating our services to other buildings during the renovation is the only way we can get this much-needed project done as quickly as possible, minimizing impact on our students.
The University did consider the possibility of a phased construction project, but it is not financially feasible due to the extensive interior demolition that the current building requires to move forward and to the age of systems that would have to be fully functional in “old” sections while “new” sections were under construction. Similarly, any plan to accelerate the construction portion of the renovation to a schedule faster than the estimated 20 months is prohibited by the limits of our available funding.
In late November, an aged transformer that was part of a duct-heater (in the old heating-and-air-conditioning infrastructure) ended its life by producing a large volume of smoke and a loud pop from its location on a wall above the first floor in the library. We evacuated the building as a precaution, and no one, including the hundreds of students in the building at the time, was at real risk during the event. However, the appearance of an assortment of fire trucks and rescue vehicles on the street adjacent to the library reminded me that nearly every component in that building has aged to the point of unreliability, and although a project that allows us to use parts of the building while other parts were being renovated might sound attractive at first glance, other factors deserve greater priority in this decision. A phased construction project adds risk; closing the building this summer for complete renovation eliminates it.
This is obviously not an ideal situation, but we remain committed to providing the best resources, services, and assistance to current and incoming students throughout the course of this project. If you have questions or concerns about the project, please comment on this blog or email firstname.lastname@example.org.