Campus construction

Renovations to restore Reading Room in Carnegie Library begin, expected to be complete by November

Courtesy of PKJ Architects

A rendering of the Carnegie library reading room

Following the start of major construction in mid-May, restoration of Carnegie Library’s main Reading Room and original Quad entrance is expected to be completed within the year.

‘This is a historic, beautiful reading room and it’s the only one we have on the campus; it’s iconic and inspirational to sit in a space that has such beauty,’ said Suzanne Thorin, dean of the libraries and university librarian.

The Reading Room restoration is part of the five-year project to both update and restore Carnegie, Thorin said. She said she hopes to see the Reading Room project completed by Orange Central — Syracuse University’s Homecoming — in November.

Carnegie opened in 1907 after the Andrew Carnegie Foundation made a $150,000 donation to SU and served as the main library on campus until 1972. The mathematics department and Science and Technology Library currently occupy the building.

Several departments on campus are involved in the project. Representatives from both the library and mathematics department admit there have been issues balancing the need for space and the desire to keep a meaningful academic collection.

At present, 180,000 volumes from the academic materials housed in Carnegie are planned to be put in storage and made available upon request, said TC Carrier of the Program Management Center. There will be 194,000 volumes left at Carnegie at this point in time and the materials leaving are ones that can be found online or ones that were purchased before 2007 and have circulated once or not at all, Carrier said.

The goal of the construction is to restore the historic features wherever possible, while also bringing the building up to 21st century function, Eric Beattie, director of the Office of Campus Planning, Design and Construction, said in an email on Tuesday. LED desk lamps, study tables with access to power outlets for laptops, modern fire suppression and alarm systems and increased accessibility are among the planned updates, Beattie said.

Significant construction to the Reading Room began after final exams finished for the spring semester, Beattie said. Planning and design for the project began last year, followed by the initial demolition and preparation for the first phase of work. SU workers are involved in the summer construction, but outside contractors will also be employed for the project, Beattie said.

In restoring the Reading Room, two classrooms are being reconstructed on the first floor and offices for math tutoring and adjunct faculty are being relocated to other parts of the building, Beattie said. In the next year, the installation of a new, larger elevator and handicap accessible bathrooms are planned. The entrance to the Science and Technology Library will be relocated to the main level adjacent to the Reading Room.

No classes are scheduled in Carnegie for the summer. Beattie said construction during the academic year is not expected to affect classes and work that ‘proves to be disruptive’ will be scheduled at night or during a break.

Members of the mathematics department have posted photos of the areas under renovation on the department’s Twitter throughout the past week. The once busy Reading Room is shown empty of furniture, students and books. One picture posted on Monday showed the library’s front doors — infamously deceiving to unknowing freshman and kept closed since the original entrance was turned into office space — propped open.

Difficulties in providing enough space to house both the department and the library collection have increased over the years, and there has been mention of moving the department out of Carnegie for more than two decades.

Eugene Poletsky, chairman of the mathematics department, said he is concerned with the distribution of space. Although he admits opening the original entrance will enhance the building’s aesthetics, it required the elimination of two classrooms and office and storage space. He is especially concerned with the move of select materials to the storage facility.

Poletsky said this was done in a matter that was ‘fait accompli’ and the math department was not given the time to provide input or disagree with the move. He has since written a letter to the University Senate Committee on the Library, and received letters from Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina and Lou Marcoccia, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Thorin said she is aware members of the mathematic department are frustrated part of the collection will be moving, but hopes any issues will be resolved once the construction is completed and the faculty have the opportunity to use and enjoy the space.

‘Sometimes faculty don’t see the benefits until they see the benefits,’ Thorin said.

The books would be moved are all considered ‘low use’ materials, Thorin said. Once the books are moved, Thorin said they will be available upon request and should be available within a day. This is similar to the existing Library to Go Campus Delivery Service, which has been successful so far, Thorin said.

Plans for the multiyear project are still unfolding. The scope of the electrical and mechanical systems upgrades are still being determined and then must be coordinated with the restoration plans, Beattie said.

Beattie said he could not publicize the cost of the project, but that ‘several million dollars will be invested in the building over the next several years.’

dkmcbrid@syr.edu

 

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