Construction nears completion on remodeled library, plaza

Elizabeth Campbell

Back to class means back to the books, and the culmination of a seven-year University Library interior renovation project offers Northwestern students a modernized working environment.

But getting into the facility has proven difficult the past few days because of a separate construction in the Library Plaza.

The construction was scheduled to be completed by the time students returned in September. Workers are replacing the waterproof “membrane” below the concrete that prevents water from leaking into the library’s first floor, said Steve Sowa, associate director of Facilities Management told The Daily this summer. Sowa also stated that a railing would be erected to comply with new safety codes.

According to the Facilities Management Web site, construction on the Library Plaza is scheduled to be completed today. The Facilities Management office could not be reached for comment.

Although fences blocked off the plaza entrances Monday, students who made the effort to find an unblocked entrance enjoyed new lighting and carpeting. Officials say the project is complete except for some small details, such as lighting.

“The project was substantially complete on time, and we are just doing a few loose ends right now,” said John Blosser, a library department head. “Nothing should impede any services that (the library) has to offer.”

Beginning in 1998, the project sought “to incorporate electronic information resources into the library setting and also to realize a savings by merging service units,” Blosser said.

The first phase merged two libraries to form the Core Reserve Library. Successive phases involved combining departments, creating a new entrance and opening the Plaza Cafe. The Information Commons is the most recent and final stage of the the lobby.

This final development stemmed from a partnership between the library and NUIT’s academic technologies department, according to Bob Davis, the department’s associate director. The concept of “Info Commons” is becoming popular at university libraries across the country, but Davis said Northwestern has been innovative in designing the space and type of technology to offer its students.

“We were looking for a space that was flexible and that would foster small group collaboration (and) enable teams to work together using technology,” Davis said.

The set-up includes four small areas of restaurant-like booths, two areas equipped with 52-inch plasma televisions for larger groups and the newest addition called the Project Room.

Justin Bondi, manager of video and collaboration services, said the room is meant to be an “informal space where students can come and brainstorm projects.”

The state-of-the-art technology includes two digital whiteboards – a CopyCam and and a LTX board. The first can act as a digital camera, allowing students to record notes, while the second uses a combination of lasers and actual microphones to translate information to the room’s computer.

The Project Room is open to all students but must be reserved in advance.

Though some students may gripe about the construction, others feel the end results are worth the trouble.

“It’ll be better down the road even though it’s an inconvenience now,” said Taylor Massey, a second-year graduate student in music.

In addition, improved signs have increased the accessibility of the library, according to Janalee Croegaert, a processing assistant who has worked at the library for the past six years.

“The slate and wood – have warmed up the area and made it look less like a concrete bunker,” she said.

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