Built in 1891, Uris Library has been a prominent feature of campus for centuries. Now, Cornell is looking at making renovations to the building along with Olin Library in order to help serve students in a modern context.

Ashley He / Sun Staff Photographer

Built in 1891, Uris Library has been a prominent feature of campus for centuries. Now, Cornell is looking at making renovations to the building along with Olin Library in order to help serve students in a modern context.

November 19, 2019

Olin and Uris Libraries To Undergo Renovations to Adapt to Modern Standards

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As students pack Olin and Uris libraries to cram for prelims and finals, the University is conducting a study into renovating the two libraries to better serve the Cornell community.

Since Olin and Uris were originally built with the intention of housing closed book stacks — where students could request printed materials from a circulation desk — the University is now looking into how to adapt these libraries to grapple with new technology.

The feasibility study seeks to find out how the two libraries could be better suited to changes in research methods, learning and teaching, according to a University press release. The University is also looking to tend to maintenance issues in the two buildings.

Jon Ladley, Cornell University Library’s facilities planning manager, told The Sun in a statement that the taskforce is in the final stages of its study.

“The study was undertaken to determine the best use of space for library patrons within these iconic buildings on central campus,” Ladley wrote. “Cornell University Library leadership desired to explore how both buildings could holistically support the current academic needs of the campus community.”

For the past year, Olin and Uris have gone through other renovations. In January, Uris Library’s 24-hour study space the Cocktail Lounge closed to undergo major renovations in seating, lighting, bathrooms and technology. The study space reopened in August. This had been the first time in 17 years that the Cocktail Lounge had a significant makeover.

Renovations for Olin Library’s terrace started in August 2019 to address safety and accessibility concerns with the terrace’s entrances as well as replacing the guardrails and roofing. The construction for the terrace is slated to end in spring 2020.

These renovations, along with the feasibility study, are all a part of the Olin and Uris Libraries Space Improvement Projects, which has a larger, ongoing goal of improving the two libraries.

While Olin opened in 1961, this was also the last time Uris went through any significant redesigns — smaller, incremental changes have been made to both libraries throughout the years. The third through eighth floors of Olin were also refurbished in 2007.

While no construction has yet to take place for the libraries, consultants — design firms Brightspot Strategy LLC and Eskew Dumez Ripple — for Cornell University Library presented their visions for the libraries at a Q&A session on Oct. 30. The firms, along with an executive committee and core group, have also spent time collecting feedback and suggestions from faculty and students for the study.

According to the press release, one of the major concerns raised in feedback sessions was accessibility and the physical openness of the spaces. Some suggestions included making the A.D. White Library in Uris more wheelchair-accessible, looking into how to physically connect Olin and Uris, increasing library entrances and making more collaborative study rooms.

Ladley described the feedback sessions as “helpful” and believed the range of opinions expressed should be “reflected in the way space is ultimately allocated.”

The taskforce is currently determining how to best share a report with what Ladley described as “campus stakeholders” — which include students, faculty and library staff — and plans to solicit more feedback on the potential construction after winter break. Other than October, the last time the group held feedback sessions was in March.

Once the study is complete, Cornell University Library plans to propose a series of construction initiatives that will take place over the next 10 years. Ladley said construction could begin in 2021, at the earliest.