September 6, 2002

New Catherwood Library Wing Opens

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Students entering the Industrial & Labor Relation’s (ILR) Martin P. Catherwood Library this week may have noticed a new addition from last semester. A new second floor wing that opened Monday boasts 14,700 sq. ft. of program space, including a state-of-the-art computer laboratory, 24 workstations, study tables, pristine furniture and window-box seats.

Yet to be completed are a few minor repairs and additions, which include task lighting, patch cords and finishing stone for the public service desk, according to Gordon T. Law Jr., Director of the ILR Catherwood Library.

“The world has changed quite a bit, and we [have recognized the increasing] need for electronic access. We have been waiting for decades for this to happen, and my predecessor, Shirley F. Harper, deserves much needed credit for helping to make this happen,” he added.

Sarah E. Thomas, University Librarian, explained that as one of Cornell’s 19 libraries Catherwood has commitment to the latest library technology.

“One of the challenges we face is the need to maintain and upgrade our facilities to reflect current patterns of scholarship and learning. That means having power and data and access to electronic resources, flexible seating to accommodate group work and space to conduct classes about how to use library materials,” she said.

The library was erected primarily under the auspices of state dollars with the intention of offering the maximum amount of space in the new building footprint to accommodate the projected growth in students, faculty and staff, according to Law.

Harper planted the seed for the library’s latest expansion and renovation decades ago.

The process to secure the necessary $19,723,000 for the latest phase — Phase 2 (a and b) — from the New York State University Construction Fund (SUCF) contributed to the duration of the project. Another reason for the longevity of University-state negotiations was the need to evaluate and revisit academic needs, according to Allan Lentini, director of Finance and Administrative Operations for the ILR School.

“We are still looking to raise $2.1 million from alumni, their corporations and other privately generated funds through an interior development effort,” he said.

Most of the funds for construction in the statutory colleges, such as ILR, stem directly from the SUCF, according to Lentini. The funds are available to all state university schools and contract colleges, and Cornell’s ILR school is just one of many vying for the state fund dollars. All schools apply through their administrations that request the necessary capital from the SUCF, according to Lentini.

Christa and other sub-contractors are currently handling the expansion efforts.

“Law has managed deftly the complex planning process of building the new addition and the subsequent renovation of the remainder of the library in a way that has minimized the disruption to users and which has maintained outstanding service. [He] works closely with colleagues in the Cornell University Library to ensure the integration of the ILR collections and services into the strategic vision of the library as a whole,” Thomas said.

The late Harper discovered in 1978 that there would be a need for additional space and planned to apply for more accordingly. Although the original library was completed in 1962, just south of Catherwood’s current location, more than a decade of planning occurred during Harper’s tenure to secure Phase 1, which began in 1994 and was completed in early 1998.

The master plan, developed in the late ’80s, earmarked several stages for the planning of the new library but, according to Law, convincing Albany to provide the initial request for funding through Cornell did not come as quickly as expected.

In the spring of 1994, the bid was accepted and the fund agreed to use a union contractor for Phase 1.

“Phase 1 also allowed us to take our archival operation out of the old building and move it into the new building, with compact storage on the 4th and 5th floors,” said Boodie Newsom-McGinnis, Catherwood’s assistant director.

The library continues to offer students access to floors 2, walk-in level, 3, open stacks, 4, formerly reference, and library staff offices on the fifth floor.

Phase 2a began this summer and is expected to be finalized near the end of this semester.

The Garden Avenue complex-extension, research and conference center buildings are also currently undergoing renovation through Phase 2b, with a finish date slated for late 2003.

“Libraries deal with two worlds today: traditional paper and electronic access, including wiring, fiber and power/data supplies. We’ve achieved a state-of-the-art infrastructure, consistent with [the top of the line industry standard]. As one of three foremost collections of its kind in the world on industrial relations and human resource management, the library is technologically poised for the future,” Law said.

In addition to classroom support, Law believes that the library’s reference section handles equal quantities of e-mail to walk-in visitor ratios, with the possibility of walk-ins buttressing over the coming months, due to the new study environment.

“I appreciate the new desks. Before it had so little space to study, get together and do work. We should have had this originally. Although it may not look warm, it is quiet and private,” Jenna Velella ’04 contended.

Archived article by Chris Westgate