Plans Emerge to Integrate Undergraduate Services
If you imagine moving a household is daunting, think about moving an entire library. That was the gargantuan task facing Sara Holder and David Ward ’92 LAS, MS ’98 LIS. Last December, the veteran University of Illinois librarians were charged with creating plans to shift the Undergraduate Library out of its current environs and into other campus quarters. The relocation comes about as an early stage of the Library Building Project, which envisions reshaping the former UGL space into a home for archives and special collections, and a dramatic renovation of the Main Library, replacing the oldest stacks ranges with modern spaces for services and collections.
The move entails more than 40,000 media and 80,000 print items, 20-plus staff members, and the unique spaces and services that nearly 34,000 undergraduate students enjoy—all the while maintaining the welcoming and enriching environment to which these students are accustomed.
“There was a very well-articulated lane for us to be working in,” Ward said. He and Holder were natural choices to co-chair the core Working Group of the Main/Undergraduate Library Integration Project, as Ward heads the Undergraduate Library and Holder directs Research and Information Services. Four subgroups drew in librarians from across campus to grapple with issues of student space, consultations and programming, instruction, and logistics and operations.
By April, those reports were compiled, with the expectation that implementation will begin this summer. The Undergraduate Library will formally close in Spring 2022.
The analyses involved collecting a wide range of data, from the number of study spaces available in various libraries to the circulation history of particular items. Information on user likes and dislikes—such as access to natural light and the ability to spread out materials—was also tapped as librarians made their recommendations. After the Undergraduate Library closes, undergraduate students will be welcomed into a number of other libraries, with a variety of spaces, services, and facilities enhanced in the Main Library, Funk ACES Library, Music and Performing Arts Library, and Grainger Engineering Library and Information Center. Within the Main Library, for example, what is now the Social Sciences, Health and Education Library North (Rooms 100 and 112) can offer hundreds of spaces for individual and group work, as well as convenient proximity to research, tutoring, success services, and printing. The first floor already provides an Information Desk and could add the Writers Workshop to complement existing reference services; it also could more easily handle louder use, late hours, security, and event programming.
The second and third floors of the Main Library could contribute extra study space for quieter endeavors, and the Scholarly Commons (on the Main Library’s second floor) could enfold the Media Commons now at UGL.
The reports also identified instructional spaces across campus; suggested where to place print items, media, loanable technology, and video games; and addressed issues such as circulation, communication and outreach, reserve services, personnel, and collection management.
Despite the nitty-gritty details, Ward emphasized that a larger focus prevails, and ongoing plans will continue to be evaluated. “It’s more than adding tables and chairs,” he said. Much of the analysis pointed toward continuing to help students succeed, adjust to campus, and have “a place that they can feel welcome.”
“It’s taking the best of what we’re doing,” Ward said, “and it’s also looking to the future and saying, ‘What else? What else should we be doing, regardless of whether we moved or not?’”
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