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Carnegie Reading Room renovations to finish in May

A refurbished Reading Room in historic Carnegie Library will be open to the public in May, about a year after major construction began.

“We’re very excited, everyone’s very excited to finish,” said Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries and university librarian.

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

The Reading Room restoration is part of a several million-dollar, five-year project to both update and restore Carnegie. The project planner originally hoped to see the space completed by last November. Before construction began, the building’s historic Reading Room and entrance were changed to accommodate extra classes.

The space will now open during commencement weekend in May with an event for the Board of Trustees and an open house for graduates. By that time, Carnegie’s main doors will be reopened and the statue of Diana the Huntress, now on the second floor of E.S. Bird Library, will be cleaned and put back in its original location in the Carnegie vestibule, Thorin said.

Due to the extensive research needed to complete the project, planning took longer than other construction projects the library has undertaken, said TC Carrier of the Program Management Center. Throughout the process, historic photos were consulted to help recreate the original look of Carnegie.

The library will briefly close for the summer after the May events so the construction team can install a larger elevator, Carrier said. The current elevator fits four people tightly, and the new one will be roomier and handicap accessible.

Once officially opened for next fall semester, Carnegie will have the same hours as Bird. Carnegie will also have an updated security system, including two security gates for the library’s entrance and exit on the second floor, and all books will have RFID tracking tags, Carrier said.

A number of construction details are already in place or waiting to be installed until right before the May opening, such as refurbished light fixtures, rugs and furniture. The new flooring is in place and the scagliola, the marble-looking columns and walls, have been cleaned from a dirty yellow to the original white.

The original tables from the Reading Room have been updated with help from the university’s trustees and deans. Thorin, dean of libraries and university librarian, said each SU dean agreed to pay for a nameplate for his or her college to be placed on a desk.

At the start of the fall semester, students and professors complained about dust and were reassigned to classrooms around campus. Thorin said there have been no complaints this semester, as the regular classrooms on the bottom floor of Carnegie are completed and in use for the spring semester. The large, tiered classroom will not be completed until the fall.

While the Reading Room has been under construction, students have been directed to a first floor room that serves as a temporary Reading Room. Thorin said she has not seen an increase of students in Bird while Carnegie has been under construction.

“The people who use this library have continued to use this library,” Thorin said.

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