Library construction and renovation

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New structures built largely on years-old financial foundations

Library construction fared better in 2009 than many expected during the recession, especially given the unreliability of funding for programming, materials, and hours. The answer may be that money earmarked years ago was seeing construction through to conclusion, Bette-Lee Fox says in a December 2009 article in Library Journal; state support has helped out in some cases, defaulted in others. Many of the new libraries and renovations show a timely concern for the environment.

The new main branch of the Yuma County (Ariz.) Library District illustrates a couple of these trends. The library, which had its grand opening in May 2009, has so much natural illumination that some staff didn’t have to use the lights in their offices for some time. And the new building, which cost about $28 million, was paid for with a $53.7 million bond—approved by voters in way-before-recession 2005.

All told, 80 new public libraries were built in the United States in fiscal 2009, along with 90 additions, renovations, or remodelings. Costs for the new public libraries totaled $656,020,880, and addition/renovation/remodeling costs were $482,214,848, for a total of $1,138,235,728.

Academic libraries continue to transition from spaces to places to collaborate, connect, and learn as demonstrated by the 40 new, renovated, or expanded building projects that were completed between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. Fox notes that these new and improved spaces illustrate how academic libraries provide holistic learning environments, “bringing individuals—readers, students, researchers, gamers, dreamers—together in a space created just for them, the heart of a community, a campus, a landscape.”

Success stories from 2009

Here, culled from various sources, are other success stories from the 2009 roster of new libraries and renovations.

  • The Henry Madden Library, the largest library in the 23-campus California State University system, opened for students and faculty at California State University, Fresno, in February 2009. State budget difficulties delayed the library’s availability to the community, purchases of some of the building’s furniture and the opening of one floor for university administrative offices, Fresno State said. The $105-million project included construction of a five-story north wing (one level is below ground) and renovation of the south wing.
  • After nearly 15 years of planning and more than four years of construction, a new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library opened for public use in Salt Lake City in June. The new library holds more than 3.5 million manuscripts, 210,000 publications, 100,000 photographs, some 50,000 audiovisual records, and other items spanning the 179 years since the church’s founding by Joseph Smith in western New York.
  • Ohio State University’s William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library reopened in August after a three-year, $108.7-million renovation. The project focused on restoration of the historic library, which opened in 1913, and added technological and other upgrades to meet the 21st-century needs of students and scholars.
  • Thanks to solar panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a gift of carbon-offset credits from the general contractor, Rangeview Library District’s new Anythink Brighton (Colo.) branch is believed to be the first carbon-positive library in the United States. The building, which opened in September, offsets 167,620 pounds of carbon dioxide—16 percent more than it is anticipated to use annually. The $7.2-million branch is part of a $40-million project to build four new libraries and renovate three more.
  • Two expensive globes that made an overland wagon trip to the new Utah territory in 1852 stood as a metaphor for the $79-million renovation of the University of Utah’s Marriott Library at its Oct. 26 rededication. While the globe restoration returned them to their condition in 1850, the library renovation profoundly transformed the 1968 building, changing its appearance, internal flow, seismic resilience, and how students use it.
  • A $20.4 million, 50,000–square foot renovation of the Medina (Ohio) Library included environmentally sensitive features such as low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpet and paints, recycled upholstery, recycled-resin paneling, and large, low-e glass windows that reflect heat outside while reducing the amount of artificial light needed. There are fireplaces in the fiction area and the quiet reading room, and a window in the children’s department looks into a working beehive.
  • The 10,000-square-foot expansion of the Hockessin branch of the New Castle County (Del.) Public Library took the form of a glass pavilion, cantilevered so that it floats over a neighboring flood plain. The addition, which houses the children’s library, overlooks a densely vegetated county park on one side and wetlands on another. Cost was $8.5 million.
  • A $19.3 million renovation of the Houston Public Library—the largest in its history—converted 12,600 square feet of administrative space for public use, doubled the size of the Kids Area, added a Teen Room, updated the IT infrastructure, and replaced old escalators with a Grand Staircase and upgraded elevators. Much of the furniture came from the original building; other sustainable features included recycled-rubber flooring and motion-sensor light switches.
  • Jefferson Hall Library and Learning Center is the first new academic building at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in more than 35 years. Its design was intended to advance the campus’s 19th-century Military Gothic style to modern times, with more than 1,500 tons of granite cladding the building, sandstone window surrounds, a three-dimensional West Point arch at the main entry, and double-height windows that echo similar features in neighboring buildings. The 141,000–square foot building cost $74.5 million.
  • Utah Valley University’s new library was built in anticipation of major growth in the student population in the next decade—from 24,000 to 40,000 students. The $48 million, 190,000–square foot building has the capacity for a 33 percent expansion of its existing 221,000-volume print collection, as well as built-in physical and technological adaptability. Featured spaces include social and family study areas near major entries; reading rooms occupying the fourth and fifth floors that provide views of desert, lake, and mountains; teaching labs; and a 150-seat lecture hall.
  • The $28.7 million new archive building of the Arizona State Library, Phoenix, was designed with colors and shapes reminiscent of a desert cliff face. Built primarily from six-inch precast concrete, the building—formally, the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building—includes two layers of roofing to prevent water penetration, a fan wall system to control the temperature throughout storage spaces, a humidity room used for document restoration, and a cold room and blast freezer to provide protection from insects. In a sign of the times, financial shortfalls forced the library to make access by appointment only through the end of its fiscal year.

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Presidential libraries, present, past . . . and future?

The George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas could be one of the last brick-and-mortar institutions of its kind, according to the Dallas Morning News, which said Congress is looking for ways to cut the expense of overseeing such buildings. Some researchers say the traditional library setup for keeping presidential documents is outdated in a digital world, according to the News. In fact, the Bush collection includes 100 terabytes of digital files as well as some 40,000 documents, artifacts, and bits of memorabilia.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, the number of visitors each year to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library slipped only slightly in the library’s first five years, surpassing everyone’s expectations, Terri Garner, its director, said in November. The $165-million library, a part of the National Archives, contains 90,000 artifacts, 80 million pages of archived documents, and 18 million archived emails.

Meanwhile, in Beauvoir in Biloxi, Mississippi, a new presidential library is in the works for Jefferson Davis, with a statue of him looking on where the former Confederate president wrote and reflected in the final years of his life. The statue used to stand in the Presidential Library that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A $10.4-million contract to rebuild the library was signed in October.

Finally, President Obama—who has had a few other things to think about since taking office—has not said anything yet about a presidential library, but University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer said he is studying the benefits of having a presidential archive and museum associated with the campus. Currently, Obama seems more interested in some kind of advocacy center along the lines of what Jimmy Carter has done at the Carter Center in Atlanta, said Eric Whitaker, an Obama friend and executive vice president at the U. of C. Medical Center.

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