Bird Library

Lower level undergoes construction, to become classroom space

The lower level of Bird Library is currently undergoing major construction to make the space, which has been unusable for months, an important resource to Syracuse University.

Once completed, the basement will have two new classrooms, a quiet reading space and an open study area. The quiet reading space and study area will be open to students as early as Oct. 6 while the classrooms are expected to be finished in January.

One classroom will have 70­–75 seats and belong to the Office of the Registrar. The other will have around 20 seats and be used for library instruction, said Terriruth Carrier, the assistant dean for programs, analytics and facilities management at SU Libraries.

Between October and January, a barrier will be erected between the ongoing construction and the rest of the floor. This will allow students to take advantage of the reading space and study area on the lower level, despite the construction, Carrier said.

“It will be noisier at times down there,” Carrier said. “After Oct. 6, we’ll reopen the quiet room in the basement.”

The project is a continuation of the first floor renovations that were completed right before the start of the current academic year. Both construction projects are part of a comprehensive overhaul of Bird Library that has been in the works since 2007. This marks the first time Bird Library has been renovated since it opened in 1972.

When funding was secured, with the help of a donor, construction started in the basement of Bird Library in 2009.

A year later, evidence of harmful PCB chemicals was found in the basement carpet. Pending approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the project could continue. Four years later, with construction at a standstill, the university finally secured the go ahead from the EPA to continue with the work.

The long delay between when the PCBs were discovered and when SU continued construction is a product of the previous administration’s inaction on the issue, said Deborah Pellow, professor of anthropology and chair of the University Senate Committee on the Library.

“There was a problem with PCBs in the basement that we knew about for at least four years with nothing being done,” Pellow said. “There’s no question that the new chancellor is the reason that’s all been taken care of.”

As part of the agreement with the EPA, the carpet in the basement of Bird has to undergo testing every three to six months. Where there is potential for scratching, epoxy has been put down to prevent dust from coming up, which is where the potentially dangerous PCBs can cause health problems if inhaled, Carrier said.

“We’ve epoxied it, sealed it and done tons of testing to make sure we’ve gotten all the problem below that,” she said.

With the renovation process spanning several years, final construction is set to be finished during the spring semester. Pellow called the library “the soul of the university,” and when the lower level is fully open, students will be able to use it in its full capacity.

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