Ceiling tiles missing, light fixtures sitting in stacks leaning against the wall, workers bustling around a lobby now empty save a single pole in the center of the room filled with wires – the fifth floor of the USF Library is almost unrecognizable aside from the shelves of books.
For students who came back to USF to find the fifth floor of the library closed for the semester, the renovations were somewhat of a shock. But, after its beginning a year ago, the complete renovation of the floor is underway.
“This project, it is not a casual project,” Dean of USF Libraries Todd Chavez said. “It has undergone a lot of planning and preparation.”
Originally, the fifth floor had about 120 seats, Chavez said. The renovation will increase that number to at least 400. There will be three dedicated reading rooms. Rooms will be glass enclosed and one will be specifically for graduate students. There will also be eight sound-proofed study rooms.
A variety of furniture and light fixtures are being added, which Chavez said is designed to cater to the various study styles of students. Seats and stations will also have charging stations.
The total cost of the multiple renovation projects and the addition of compact shelving in the basement Chavez estimated at $4.3 million.
There will still be books on the fifth floor. Eileen Thornton, the communications and marketing director for USF Libraries, said the shelves of books will also help absorb sound.
“We want you guys not to forget you’re in a library,” Chavez said.
To develop the plans for the library, USF Libraries conducted surveys of students for seven years, according to Chavez. Responses to those surveys, he said, called for more individualized spaces, new lighting and climate control. The new design will address these issues.
“First and foremost, students wanted quiet study spaces,” he said.
The complaints about the library being too hot or too cold, Thornton said, are related to the age of the building and the system it uses for heating and cooling. This older system will be replaced, Chavez said.
“We’re still using a water chilled system, and that is not a great system in Florida,” Chavez said.
The air handling system and the installation of new types of lighting, specifically LED, will significantly increase energy savings in the library as well, according to Chavez.
“It is a reflection of the campus effort to become more energy efficient,” he said.
Demolition of the fifth floor has already started. In preparation for the undertaking, Chavez said all of the books in the library were moved. Some are in the new compact shelving, some are still on the fifth floor and some are in stacks in the staff area on the basement floor while more compact shelving goes in. However, as the density of print materials goes up, the supply is not following in this increase.
“The truth is, our purchase of print materials has been going down …” Chavez said. “… Our needs for additional print space have declined.”
For those students who want to access print materials in the library with call numbers QH through Z, the library has systems in place, as those call numbers are currently unavailable. Thornton said to speak to the front desk concerning materials normally on the fifth floor. Students can talk to the front desk and the library staff will either retrieve the book for the student or help the student acquire the book through interlibrary loans.
“There is going to be some inconvenience and we’re going to have some noise,” Chavez said.
Despite any inconveniences, Chavez said he feels the projects will be a great improvement to the library and spot-on for what is needed and wanted by the students.
“There’s a lot of support for this,” he said.
The fifth floor is just part of the projects underway in the USF library over the next two semesters. The library will also be adding a Wellness Center to the fourth floor that will be open the same times as the library, complete with massage chairs, fresh fruit, Wellness Education services and nap pods for students to sleep in. All bathrooms in the building will also be renovated.
All of the work is to be finished and the renovated areas reopened by next fall, according to Chavez. Closer to the end of this semester, samples of the furniture that will be added to the fifth floor will be available on the first floor for students to try out.