Over the course of the next year, students will see major changes to both the seating arrangements and collections shelving in the USF Tampa Library.
The project is designed to dramatically increase the seating and power source availability to students.
Todd Chavez, dean of the USF Libraries, said that the renovation comes partly as a result of “anecdotal observation” of the need for new seating. For instance, he said staff would often see students sitting on the floor, which he attributed to more studious students.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback from students about needing more study space, needing more seating,” he said. “USF has better students (than previous years) … who study more, students who view their study space as something they want to use more.”
The first phase of the project will begin today and last until December. Books and other materials will be moved from the third, fourth and fifth floors to new compact shelving in the basement.
The re-shelving of books will be based on demand. Materials that are used less often will be stored in the basement, while items that students frequently check out or request will remain in smaller shelving units on each floor for students to peruse or request through the Circulation desk.
It is important to Library staff that the Library collections remain accessible after the project is complete.
“We don’t want to be a study hall … we want to be a library that provides great study spaces for students,” Chavez said.
The project will initially focus on the fifth floor, with renovations to the fourth floor to come later. Seating on the fifth floor will increase from 117 seats to over 400.
The Library receives between 15,000 to 18,000 guests per day and currently seats 1,700 guests at a time.
The fifth floor will see the most change. The renovation will add seating, study areas along the walls, additional power outlets and two additional study rooms.
Chavez described the renovations as a “win, win, win” because the power supply and lighting will be improved, and the Library’s collections will be preserved.
Eileen Thornton, communications and marketing director for USF Libraries, said the project will rearrange the quiet levels of the Library. The fourth floor is currently the quietest floor in the building for those who prefer a silent work environment.
“During construction, we’re going to have the basement be the quiet study space,” Thornton said.
During the renovation, Library staff will stay updated about the area of the Library in which the crew will be working. Students can ask the circulation desk for the workers’ location if they want to avoid those areas. The staff will also post signage around the building to alert students to the current workspaces.
“We will have signage on the floors to let people know what’s going to be happening on those floors,” Chavez said.
Ultimately, he said, the Library staff wants to keep any disruption at a minimum. As a result, the library construction company will only work on one area of one floor at a time and will utilize a staff elevator to avoid disrupting normal elevator traffic.
Work will take place from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Students who visit the Library on evenings and weekends will not be affected by the renovations.
“A lot of planning went into this to absolutely minimize the effect on the students,” Thornton said.
Compact shelving will be installed in the basement in current staff-only areas. These new units will house the materials currently found on the third, fourth and fifth floors.
Additionally, students will notice bathroom renovations on the third through sixth floors during the spring. To avoid extreme congestion in the first and second floor bathrooms, only two floors’ bathrooms will be worked on at a time.
“We will not take all four out of service (at once),” Chavez said. “No way.”
The final phase of renovation will begin in May 2017 when the fifth floor will close completely. The seating that is currently on that floor will be redistributed to other areas of the Library so that the seating capacity in the building remains the same.
Students will still have access to the materials on the fifth floor via a “paging system” through which they can request an item at the Circulation desk and a staff member will retrieve it for them.
By fall 2017, the Library renovation project will be complete and students will have full access to renovated bathrooms, as well as the updated and increased seating and power sources.
“We want students to know that the inconvenience of the next couple months has a bright ending,” Chavez said.
Megan Ostl, a Library research assistant, said that the renovations will be good in the long run but worries about an increase in lines when circulation workers need to leave the desk to find materials for students that are stored in the basement or elsewhere.
“The Library is crazy busy,” she said. “The renovations are going to cause student workers to have to go find books that students could get (for themselves) before.”
Busra Atalay, a student specialist working at the Circulation desk, said that an increase in seating will definitely benefit the USF Library.
“There’s not too much room, I always see people walking around looking for seats,” she said.
Chavez is excited about the project and its impact on students.
“It’s gonna be great,” he said.