By: Imani Dickerson
Since 1967, Sweet Briar College has faced difficulties with a lack of space in its library. The colleges’ 300,000 books have been forced to migrate out of the space over the years, some even winding up in physical plant storage. The college’s Board of Directors is seeking to end such migrations, and make the space more conducive to student use. At their meeting last month, the Board decided to move forward with library expansion plans that would create a more functional space for formal and informal academic use.
Additions will include more quiet study spaces, group study rooms, a vending/self-serve Café, a 30-student classroom and learning studios, three new seminar rooms, space for the Academic Resource Center (ARC), and formal/informal outdoor gathering spaces. The library would also be handicap accessible.
At this point, not all plans have been finalized. According to director of integrated information systems John Jaffe, “…conceptual plans will continue to be refined in the actual construction drawings to ensure we achieve the most effective facilities possible. It is possible and even likely that spaces within the conceptual drawings will shift as we integrate all the necessary environmental control systems, electrical and mechanical systems, technology infrastructures, etc.”
A more complete picture of the building will emerge over the next few months, as building plans become more detailed. Jaffe also added that students, faculty and staff will be able to comment on rooms and the design of specific areas as these drawings become more developed.
Since the original proposal last year, changes to the plan have occured. One of these is the removal of the automated storage and retrieval system, a system which will be replaced by compact shelving. Such a method provides adequate storage for the existing collection and will allow for future collection growth.
Conceptual designs have been made and reviewed by college architects, and construction specialists to ensure that the extension can be completed within budget and in a way that does not inhibit its use.
Plans are also in keeping with the college’s goal of environmental consciousness ans sustainability. Said Jaffe, “Fortunately, the new facilities have been planned with the end of having both a highly flexible structure capable of responding to changes as needed and also having green and sustainable systems built in that will make the structure serve the college in an environmentally and fiscally sustainable way for years to come.” The library is expected to remain functional throughout these changes.
Sweet Briar College president Jo Ellen Parker is optimistic. “At the end of construction we are going to have a wonderful new facility, one that honors the centrality of the library in the intellectual life of our community,” said Parker. Current projections suggest the extension will be completed in approximately two years. Site preparation will begin this summer, and construction will begin late summer or early fall 2012.
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Photo courtesy of sbc.edu