Wilson Library to get $60 million upgrade

The library will undergo a small renovation as it hammers out plans for a larger total redo.

David Clarey and Ethan Nelson

A scarcity of space for Wilson Library’s growing catalog could be alleviated by  $60 million in renovations starting next month.

A smaller upgrade, including a new space for group work, will begin Nov. 7 before the library goes through a full-scale renovation.

The first phase of the project — funded largely by donors — is part of a larger plan to completely renovate the 48-year-old library

Design for the renovation project will cost $6 million. The University is asking for the state Legislature to fund $4,000,000 of the design as part of the school’s 2017 capital request.

In it’s 2018 request to state lawmakers, the University would ask the state to fund $36 million of the remaining $54 million in construction costs. 

“We’re out of collection space,” said Claire Stewart, associate University librarian for research & learning. “We’ve grown to a point that almost all of the facilities are at capacity.”

Wilson Library was built to hold 1.5 million volumes but now holds 3.6 million.

She said one of the main motivations for the renovation is a change in how students are using the library.

Students are doing more group work, Stewart said, which requires different kinds of space from what the library can provide. Library staff members need better digital capabilities to do more collaboration and consultations around digital technology.

A smaller project, the Research Collaboration Studio, will open June 2017 on the first floor in the library’s reference section. The area will close Nov. 7.

Reference materials will be moved to other locations in the library depending on how frequently they’re used. Less than 5 percent of reference material is used regularly, according to a release from the library.

Stewart said the studio is intended for collaboration and to provide users with support for online publishing and geospatial projects.

Though the project is in early planning stages, Stewart said, the renovation likely wouldn’t close the entire building at once, similar to renovations on Tate Lab of Physics.

Library staff said they have taken faculty members and student focus groups and surveys into account when planning the renovations. A majority of both faculty members and students said they wanted to see more individual and group study spaces in the library

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of the Wilson Library project. The project will cost $60 million, with $6 million used for the design phase.