Gelman plans major upgrades

Gelman Library could be in line for a major renovation – if the necessary funding comes through.

Library administrators are hoping to commence a $5 million renovation project of the entire first floor of Gelman as soon as this spring, but they say they are starving for funding. The project is part of a larger renovation plan that the library will propose to the Board of Trustees this summer in hopes of obtaining financial support.

“This is a project which we feel is necessary in order to improve services to the students,” said University Librarian Jack Siggins. “We identified this as one of our major, immediate needs.”

Administrators developed the idea about two and a half years ago in response to overwhelming student complaints of overcrowding, limited electrical outlets and the general outdated appearance of the library, but Siggins said the updates are more important now than ever.

The project would replace the entire first floor of Gelman with modern amenities in an informal environment. The design includes several small group study areas, large desks with computers for personal use and electronic panels with campus news and information.

To give the library a more natural appearance, several windows will be built into the walls and a reading garden with outdoor seating will be placed outside of the building’s entrance.

Siggins said that although it is needed, renovating Gelman is not near the top of the University’s to-do list.

“The University does not see this as a high enough priority to warrant even presenting this to the Board of Trustees,” he said.

He plans to present the proposal to the Board in June for their support, but Siggins said he expects to have to fund the entire project through donations. He said that to begin the remodeling process the library needs to raise $2 million – they have raised $125,000.

“Its not that easy raising money,” Siggins said. “Thus far we have not been able to find major donors – significant donors – who will help us.”

Siggins added that some donors have pledged to write the Gelman Library into their wills, but added that this “doesn’t help the library in the short term.”

Donald Lehman, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, said he and University administrators recognize the need for such improvements in the library.

“From the viewpoint of the University, our objective always is to keep our facilities in as good and current state as we possibly can,” he said.

But he added that several factors must be taken into consideration to successfully implement such a plan.

“This is an important project for the Gelman Library but it has to be set in the context of all the other capital projects that have to do with our academic programs,” Lehman said. “Every year, hard decisions have to be made relative to the use of our resources.”

Siggins said he has also has developed a broader vision statement for Gelman Library that he will present to the Board of Trustees at their retreat in June to attain University funding. Although the proposal will center on long-term goals for improving the library, the renovation of the first floor will be at the center of his presentation.

While library administrators hope to improve the library on a larger scale, renovating the first floor is a more realistic way of alleviating the library’s problems in the short term, explained Associate University Librarian Andrea Stewart.

“We’re taking a phase one approach to [improving the library] and looking at what we can do within Gelman,” she said.

To promote the project, library administrators hope to remodel a portion of the first floor of Gelman sometime this spring, if they can shore up the funds. The “micro-commons” will include many of the same features as the comprehensive remodeling project such as personal workstations, new software and reconfigurable furniture. The area will be open for student and faculty use and will also serve as an advertisement for possible donors, Stewart said.

Because the renovations are dependent on fundraising, Siggins said he does not know when the project will begin or be completed.

-Emily Cahn contributed to this report.

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