Plans to reopen Northwestern’s Deering Library doors approved

Kelly Hwu

Construction will begin as soon as possible on the renovation of Deering Library’s lobby, a move that could allow the library’s doors leading to Deering Meadow to be permanently opened, said Dean of Libraries Sarah Pritchard.

Deering Library opened in 1933, but its doors have been closed since the new section of the library, now known as University Library, was built in 1970. As of now, the doors are open only for special events such as Commencement. If students want to enter Deering, they must go through the main library doors and through a small tower on the basement level called the “Lantern.”

Two years ago, the library received a donation from the Deering family that jump-started the initiative to open the doors, Pritchard said. The money has allowed for construction on the outside and inside of Deering’s lobby.

Pritchard said there are two parts to Deering’s renovation project. The first includes renovations, such as making the front entrance handicap-accessible (a requirement for all campus buildings), creating climate control by installing double doors and setting up security monitors. The second part, not yet approved, involves hiring staff for the lobby.

“We need monitors, people to check in ID’s and books and funding for salaries,” Pritchard said. “That means money needs to come in regularly.”

Pritchard said she presented her proposal for additional staffing to President Morton Schapiro and University Provost Dan Linzer on Tuesday. However, results will not be released for a couple of months, she said.

Weinberg sophomore Ani Ajith, an Associated Student Government off-campus senator and former Daily staffer, said he asked his fellow Communications Residential College residents last year for input about campus improvements.

Ajith said CRC resident and Weinberg sophomore Kayla Foulk, a Daily staffer, initially brought up the matter to Ajith during Fall Quarter.

“Long before I came to Northwestern University, I got postcards with Deering permanently featured on them, and it just didn’t make sense to me that the doors were closed,” Foulk said.

Ajith sent an email to Pritchard about the project and she asked him to help out. He presented the project to the ASG Senate and said its decision to open the Deering doors was unanimous. Pritchard said her proposal will benefit from this because it displays student support for this initiative.

David Harris, ASG vice president of services, said although he was not directly involved in the project, he worked with Ajith to review the relevant legislation because he believed it was important.

“I think this project is 30 years overdue,” the SESP sophomore said.

Alumni are also in support of opening the Deering doors.

“They have such strong memories of their library when they were students here,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard said she thinks opening the doors will not only be convenient, but will also give people the opportunity to learn more about Deering. She said opening the doors may draw more people to Deering Meadow.

A potential benefit of opening the doors could be moving the ice rink from Norris University Center to Deering Meadow, its original home before World War II. President Schapiro showed support for the idea in the fall, Harris said. The opening of the doors would provide easy entrance for warmth and getting skates, he added.

“Opening the doors allows us to showcase one of the greatest architectural and artistic achievements of our school,” Harris said. “It’s one of the signature changes the University should prioritize.”

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