September 16, 2010

Fine Arts Task Force Considers Future as Library Moves

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Since the beginning of summer, librarians in the University’s Fine Arts Library have moved more than 78,000 books from the library’s current location in Sibley Hall to neighboring Rand Hall. Beginning Friday, a task force for the transition process will also start meeting, making staffing and collection decisions as the library change locations.

Reasons for the move are mainly structural and environmental. Structural concerns include the low load-bearing capacity of the aging floor in Sibley, and environmental concerns include the lack of temperature control for the books.

“The library is moving because the space we’re in is not well-suited for a research library or for any library. The environmental controls are just not there and never have been,” said Martha Walker, an associate librarian in the Fine Arts Library.

The librarians also had to work around Sibley’s inner structure when organizing the shelves.

“We’ve had to place the stacks in certain arrangements because of Sibley’s load-bearing capacity. It just wasn’t designed to hold the number of books to which we’ve grown,” Walker said.

Sibley’s lack of air conditioning is also an issue, especially in the summer when temperature and humidity levels can dramatically fluctuate depending on the time of day.

“It gets very warm in the stacks, as well as quite humid, which ages [the books] more quickly,” Walker said. “It’s bad on the binding and on the paper. It makes things deteriorate much more quickly: the glues used in the binding, the paper itself — things don’t last.”

Other reasons for the move include a need for increased stack space to accommodate new acquisitions and the transition to more offices and studios into Sibley. The third floor of Sibley Hall have been emptied to make room for renovations, and offices have already been constructed across from the library’s former circulation desk.

The library task force, which will begin meeting on Friday, consists of faculty and staff. It will prepare a report due in December on the future of the library. However, according to Walker, it will take several years to assess the library’s needs.

“[The move is] done in conjunction with what’s happening in Milstein and Sibley, so it’s more of a holistic approach than has been used in the past,” Walker said. “We’re a heavily used library and we’re a heavily browsed library. I think it’s wonderful that we’ll finally be in a good situation and we’ll be in the right environment.”

Bonna Boettcher, coordinator for Specialized Humanities and Social Sciences Libraries, alluded to the move as part of a rethinking of the flow of traffic and activity, throughout the architecture college.

“With Milstein Hall being constructed and about to open, it gives opportunities to the college to have a completely different work flow, traffic flow [and] a different flow of changing ideas and abilities,” Boettcher said.

The library also needs to make space for new acquisitions — something it does not have available at Sibley.

“The Fine Arts Library adds approximately five thousand books per year, so they are always trying to create space for growth,” Walker said.

Many books will be stored temporarily at the University’s library annex, and patrons can request stored books to be sent to any library branch on campus. Books typically arrive in one business day.

Student opinions on the library move and transition were generally hopeful, but mixed.

“I don’t think it makes much sense because they just renovated [Rand] for architecture studios and Rand shops,” said Allie Riggs ’13, a fine arts major. “But if there’s going to be more space in Rand and it’s going to be safer to keep the collection there, then I’m for it. I guess I’m just worried about access being restricted to architects rather than art students and that art students aren’t going to have much space anymore.”

Riggs also noted that the fine arts space for the sculpture program, previously located in the Foundry, behind Sibley, would also be moved during the recent renovation and construction process to accommodate increased architecture studio space.

“I think it’s been a good move,” architecture major Jake Rudin ’14 said in an e-mail. “The dome [of Sibley] is the only place that isn’t air conditioned right now — it’s a good opportunity for them to reorganize and re-situate all the books. However, it seems like the dome is such a nice space for that library … I hope they bring all the books back, because the fine arts library is such an amazing resource. It’s definitely there for us.”

Original Author: Emily Coon