Morris Library continues plans for renovation

By Gus Bode

$12 million in extra funds needed to complete expansion

A student can easily lose oneself in Morris Library amid the maze of books, jagged corridors and elevators that face in every direction. And they can forget about easily finding an open computer; most of the terminals on the main floor are filled during the busy hours of the day.

All that is about to change as Morris Library continues its plans for renovating and expanding its facilities.

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“We hope [the library] will become more of a campus resource,” said David Carlson, dean of Library Affairs.

Last week, members of the library building committee met with Capital Development Board, the architects designing Morris’ facelift. They also met with Plant and Service Operations to discuss any concerns about and reactions to the final set of plans. The meeting completed Phase 2 of the project.

Though these meetings usually contain long discussions about where the project is and where the committee wants to head from there, this meeting was fairly brief, said Jim Fox, the building-planning librarian.

Preparations for the project began about two years ago when the Illinois Board of Education released $29 million to fund the renovation and expansion of the library facilities. Since that time, library officials have been reorganizing and rearranging the entire interior of the library. The official renovation project will begin in October. The expansion, however, will not begin until the end of this year.

For Katie Connors, a senior majoring in public relations, the extra space will come too late. Though she will not be able to utilize the facilities, she said that the expansion is still needed.

“I don’t care as long as someone else can use it,” she said.

The renovation project includes plans to make Morris easier to navigate, removing the last asbestos from the ceilings and floors and fixing the temperamental heating/cooling system. Other renovations include reorganization of books, updating library mechanical systems and a total overhaul of the exterior of the building due to structural problems in the current brick, said Phil Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations.

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Along with the renovation of the existing facilities, Fox said the library hopes to add 50,000 square feet of space onto the front of the building. The plans extend the basement and floors one and three, leaving an open area in lieu of floor two. The additional space would incorporate an auditorium that will seat about 250 people, a computer classroom and an “internet caf” complete with a coffee bar and study area, leaving room to house additional stacks of books.

More computer terminals would definitely be helpful, according to Celina Green, a junior in advertising.

“It’s really hard to get on a computer now,” she said. “Because if you need to use it but have a class, there’s nothing you can do.”

However, not everyone thinks the addition would be helpful.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Marta Wrobel, a junior majoring in secondary English education. “This place is already seven stories high. Do we really need more? They should focus on some of the other buildings.”

Right now, there are two plans for Morris’s revamping. Plan A includes the renovation of the library’s existing facilities as well as the re-creation of the front of the building. Plan B incorporates the additional 50,000 square feet of space into Plan A. Whether the library will be able to implement Plan B depends on the SIUC Board of Trustees, which will discuss funding Thursday in their monthly meeting. To complete the project, the library will need about $12 million in extra funds.

“[The $29 million] is still there,” Fox said. “It’s just not enough to do Plan B.”

If the BOT approves the request, the library will begin Phase 3, preparation of detailed construction and architectural documents. Construction bids, Phase 4, could be sent out as early as April or May, according to Gatton.

“We’re actually pretty excited about the library,” Gatton said. “A library is the focus point of a university. We hope that [Morris] will become more of a central location.”

Ground could be broken as early as June of 2004, according to Gatton, though the construction would take at least 30 months to complete.

“It could be 36 or 38 months,” Gatton said. “It depends on how long each phase of construction will take.”

Despite the uncertainty of construction dates, both Gatton and Fox said they were excited about the project.

“This is something that benefits everybody,” said Heather Clarry, a sophomore pre-major. “It’s not just for one group.”

Reporter Rachel Lindsay can be reached at [email protected]

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