Panel approves

by Heather Fors

Walter Library is one step closer to its technological face lift after getting a thumbs-up from the Board of Regents’ Facilities Committee on Thursday.
The seven-member panel voted unanimously to move forward with plans to make Walter Library a technology hub, despite some early concern about its physical appearance blending in with its structure and other campus buildings.
The plan calls for the construction of an upgraded computer lab with 120 new work stations. The lab would be open around the clock to all students, staff and faculty members.
The library would also have a new electrical and telecommunications network and house the Digital Technology Center.
Renovations to the 75-year-old library will also bring the building up to safety standards.
Health and safety improvements, such as asbestos removal and upgrading fire safety equipment, are only part of the plan.
The building will now comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, providing easier access to and throughout the building for people with disabilities.
The 12 floors that house the dark and cramped stacks of bookshelves will be refurbished to be less of a fire hazard. The three bottom floors will be dedicated to the stacks’ contents. Circulation will move down to the basement.
Officials will also resurrect a reading room, which the library last had in 1922. Bill Beyer, an architect from Stageberg Beyer Sachs, Inc., the architecture firm that drew up the plans, said he wants to bring back some of the beauty and nostalgia of the historic reading room.
But discussion on the numerous other improvement ideas was overshadowed by regents’ concern for the building’s facade.
“I want to be able to walk down the Mall and say the stuff flows together,” said Regent David Metzen.
Other members agreed that they don’t want to live with something that looks like an artificial part of the whole.
Regent Maureen Reed said the common “Joe and Jane” want to see something tied together. If the addition to Walter does not look like part of the original structure, it will ruin the beauty of the building, she said.
Reed said other buildings on campus look like they were just smashed together with no consideration for continuity.
But Eric Kruse, associate vice president for operations, said these concerns need to be expressed while planning is still in progress.
“We’ll look to make sure that we’re as close as possible,” he said.
By matching the brick and stone work and the basic design of the original structure, Beyer said the building will maintain its integrity. Current building codes inhibit working on “historic buildings” if it means maiming the historic presence of the structure.