New furnishings and technology features are expected to be available in the Alkek Library by the end of the semester as part of the first of several phases of renovations.
Joan Heath, associate vice president and university librarian, said four prototype areas in the library will be used as a way to test the new furnishings and technologies to ensure larger scale projects will be successful in the future.
Changes to the alcove area near the staircase on the second floor will be one of the prototypes. Two rooms on the fourth floor will also be equipped with tables with flats screen monitors and other new technology.
“The Alkek Library opened in May 1990,” Heath said. “There has been gradual changes, and we still have a lot of the original furniture from when we opened over 20 years (ago).”
Heath said the library is in the process of ordering new furnishings and forms of technology such as video conferencing and large flat screen monitors. The new furniture will include chairs with soft upholstery, smaller tables and pieces with wheels. The new furniture is designed to be more flexible and allow students to work individually or pull tables together in a group setting, Heath said.
The second and fourth floor of the Alkek Library will showcase the prototype furniture, she said, and the two rooms on the fourth floor will provide video conferencing. The second floor will have three tables with a large flat screen at one end and access to the Internet.
“We’re ordering this right now, and I expect these prototype furnishings to be in before the end of this semester sometime,” Heath said.
Carl Van Wyatt, vice president of Information Technology, said the library needs to upgrade its infrastructure such as air conditioners and complete phase one of the planning process before renovations begin. Phase one includes the four different prototype areas and a café on the second floor of the library, Wyatt said.
Heath said all prototype areas are expected to be available in the spring 2014 semester.
“Between the infrastructure and phase one, we’re talking about $12.5 million worth of project funds,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt said library officials have raised $1 million in private donations and will hold fundraisers to increase donations in the next year to year and a half.
“We’re trying to raise money from private donations, and we have had some pretty good success at that thus far,” Wyatt said.
Barbara Breier, vice president of University Advancement, said the $1 million in donations came from about four different donors.
“We try to identify potential donors who would have an interest in the library,” Breier said. “So, it’s a question of just trying to align donors’ interests around the importance of the library to the overall academic mission of the institutions.”
Wyatt said an increase in library fees might be an option in the future to help finish the project. There has not been a library fee increase in seven years, he said.
“At this point, I think it’s too premature to know how much that need will be and whether or not it will require a fee increase,” Wyatt said.
According to the Tuition and Fee Definitions provided by Student Business Services, the library fee is currently $10 per credit hour included in each student’s tuition.
“That library fee helps support primarily the collection development,” Wyatt said. “A big portion of our collection development funding comes from student fees.”
Library staff will monitor the usage of the prototype furnishings and new technologies once they are installed, Heath said.