URBANA - Jose Peralta spends several afternoons a week in the University of Illinois Newspaper Library, doing research for an anthropology professor.
Peralta, a graduate student in leisure studies and tourism from Peru, has been looking at old copies of Peruvian newspapers to collect information about tourism in the country. He enjoys reading the 50-year-old newspapers so much, he sometimes forgets about his surroundings - a dingy basement crammed with shelves holding newspapers and microfilm.
?It's a little dark,? Peralta said. ?Sometimes I feel maybe it would be better for my eyes to have a better light.?
Soon Peralta and others who frequent the newspaper library will be doing their reading and research in a bright, newly-remodeled space on the second floor of the main library building. The newspaper library will be moving to Room 246 in February as part of a reconfiguration of space in the university library.
?It will be a nicer home,? said newspaper librarian Sharon Clark. ?We can certainly provide access to our collection more effectively. Faculty, students and visitors are going to have a pleasant space and a high-tech space to do their research. A lot of international students and faculty like to come in to read the newspaper. I think they'll be happy in the new space.?
Now, Clark's office isn't even in the library, but in another part of the basement. The library's employees - two staff members, a part-time librarian and a dozen part-time student workers - work at desks along one wall, with a narrow aisle between them and shelves of microfilm.
In the new area, there is a roomy office for Clark, ample space for library workers and a work room/supply room. It has large windows along its west wall and brand-new carpeting, lighting and shelves. The UI's mill shop is making custom furniture for the microfilm readers, as well as tables and the front counter.
The library will have a climate-controlled area in the stacks to store its 110,000 reels of microfilm.
The move will be a big undertaking. The UI's newspaper library is the largest academic newspaper library and it holds the largest print collection of newspapers in the country - more than 150 million pages of newspapers dating back to 1632.
Its subscriptions currently include 347 U.S. papers and 108 international papers. The library keeps copies of its big city dailies on hand for up to three months, until it receives microfilm copies of them. For those for which the library does not have a current microfilm subscription, the newspapers are wrapped in brown paper and stored indefinitely.
There isn't room for all the papers in the current basement space so some are stored in the library's attic. And a room in the basement of the Law Building is stacked floor to ceiling with wrapped newspapers.
They will all be moved, along with the current newspapers and microfilm. Some of the papers will be stored in the new library, and some will eventually go to a library storage facility that will be built on Oak Street.
Contractors are finishing painting, cleaning and installing new shelving in the stacks, said Bart Clark, associate university librarian for planning and budgeting. The move is scheduled to start the second week of February and it will take about two weeks. Bart Clark estimated it will take that long - and about 500 trips from the basement to the second floor - to move the 2,900 shelves of microfilm.
The newspaper library should be open in its new area in mid-February. It will remain open during the move.
The library reconfiguration began with initial planning in 1993. Work on the first phase started in fall 2001.
That included remodeling new spaces for conservation work, acquisitions and the newspaper library. The library budgeted $1.6 million for those three areas.
Bart Clark said it will likely take eight to 10 years to complete the total reconfiguration project. Sharon Clark said the new newspaper library will give her and her staff the space to better evaluate their collection and how best to preserve it.
?It's a jewel of a collection for this university, and it's a lovely opportunity to highlight the collection and to really address taking care of the collection,? she said.