A sign on the fence outside Olin Hall, blocking off the library terrace which is currently under construction.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A sign on the fence outside Olin Hall, blocking off the library terrace which is currently under construction.

September 4, 2019

Olin Library Under Construction Until Spring 2020 for Terrace Renewal Project

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Olin Library’s terrace, famous for its musical rocks and views of the Arts Quad, will be closed until spring as the University manages a series of leaks and maintenance updates to the 58-year-old building.

The Olin Library Terrace Renewal project began construction during August 2019 and will continue into Spring 2020. The project is part of the greater Olin and Uris Libraries Space Improvement Projects.

Jon Ladley, the library facilities planning coordinator, said that the main goals of the Olin Terrace Renewal project including replacing guardrails, improving the safety and accessibility of the stairs and entrances and replacing the roof of the terrace.

“We have had multiple leaks over the first floor of the building that prioritized the roof replacement,” Ladley said. “The main access stairs by the building entrance have also deteriorated, and the original guardrails along the terrace walkway are not up to current safety code.”

“It made sense to complete all of this adjoining work within the scope of one project,” he concluded.

Ladley said that the project also provided an opportunity to improve Olin’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility by replacing the east stairs with a ramp to the raised podium on top of the library.This change will enable more Cornell community members to enjoy Olin’s terrace.

Ladley said that the impact on students will be mainly visual — and they have made requests to minimize the Terrace Renewal Project’s disruption.

“There will be some construction noise throughout the duration of the project, but we have requested that the most disruptive noise happens in the early morning before Olin opens,” Ladley said. “Construction will also cease during study week and finals.”

Ladley said the goal is to complete Olin’s roof work before winter weather begins. Additional work and site restoration for the Terrace Renewal Project will take place when weather permits in the spring.

The project was awarded to Streeter Associates of Elmira, the same contractor who renovated the Olin Library entrance during the Summer of 2018 and the Uris Library Cocktail lounge, which reopened last month after closing for a semester. The Terrace Renewal project is funded by central planned maintenance funds.

The John M. Olin Library, built in 1961, is home to a vast collection of electronic and print research materials in the humanities and social sciences, and shares its collection with the neighboring Uris Library. According to the University, the two libraries hold a combined nearly 2 million volumes.

With an increased emphasis on digital research, the way that students and faculty optimize the library’s resources has changed in the 58 years since Olin’s construction. The University saw the need to improve heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, accessibility and space allocation, amongst other needs.

In March, Cornell University Library held two workshops, one for students and one for faculty, to brainstorm future renovation ideas for both Olin and Uris. Once the project proposal was created, organizers held an open Q&A session in an effort to lessen a potential renovation’s disturbance to library staff and students.

According to the University, Cornell signed a contract with Brightspot Strategy LLC, a planning firm, to collaborate on the Olin and Uris Libraries Renovation Feasibility and Program Study. The firm’s consultant and architect team will be guided by a Cornell executive committee and core group. Other University stakeholders will be included in the planning process, including students, faculty, and library staff, through a series of forums.

The study outlines a vision for both libraries and is being used to develop conceptuals design options by the end of 2019. The options will be presented to stakeholders in January 2020 and further open sessions will be organized for stakeholders to voice their opinions. The designs created for the feasibility study will be used to fundraise future building renovations.

After the completion of the feasibility study, further construction to Olin Library likely won’t begin before 2022, at the earliest. However, Cornell community members can look forward to the renovated Olin terrace by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.