Undergrad Library Shelves

The majority of the University of Illinois Undergraduate Library’s 118,000 volumes have been transferred to other locations on campus in preparation for the underground hub’s clear-out in May 2022.

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URBANA — The University of Illinois’ iconic Undergraduate Library is being prepared for its makeover.

All but three shelving units worth of its 118,000-plus volumes have been transferred to other locations on campus, months ahead of the underground library’s impending clear-out.

Next academic year, the library, built in 1969, will begin its transformation into the new home for the UI’s collections of rare books and archives.

The University Library and University Senate Library Committee are hosting a series of town halls to keep students and staff posted on the renovation plans.

A virtual meeting is set for 3 p.m. today and will be co-led by the architecture and engineering firms the library brought on board this summer to design the new library space. Those interested must register at {a class=”oajrlxb2 g5ia77u1 qu0x051f esr5mh6w e9989ue4 r7d6kgcz rq0escxv nhd2j8a9 nc684nl6 p7hjln8o kvgmc6g5 cxmmr5t8 oygrvhab hcukyx3x jb3vyjys rz4wbd8a qt6c0cv9 a8nywdso i1ao9s8h esuyzwwr f1sip0of lzcic4wl py34i1dx gpro0wi8” tabindex=”0” href=”https://go.library.illinois.edu/Nov18?fbclid=IwAR2gvTkh0UQL-N_ZxGUMX1q7vWXk7xyD38kIyMcQiFaWW0yPDZis7z57aW0” rel=”nofollow noopener” target=”_blank”}go.library.illinois.edu/Nov18{/a}.

“We committed to a high degree of communication and transparency when we embarked on this project, and so this is one of those opportunities to check in with the campus,” said John Wilkin, dean and head librarian.

The library, a campus hub for study spaces and student services, will be vacated in May 2022, prior to its conversion into a special collections facility.

For years, UI librarians and campus constituents have sought a safer, more accessible home for the university’s rarest books and documents.

One migrant to the space will be the UI’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, renowned for its diverse, 600,000-volume collection of medieval and Renaissance documents, early printed books and literary papers from classic authors, such as Marcel Proust, Carl Sandburg, H.G. Wells and Gwendolyn Brooks.

The University Archives and its Student Life and Culture Archives will move to the redesigned library as well, as will the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections.

“Our special collections, the rare and archival collections, are extraordinary. They’re some of the most important and best in the world, and they haven’t had the home that they should have,” Wilkin said. “The old stacks are not only causing their deterioration but they’re endangering them. It’s a fire hazard, and not a flexible space.”

The renovation, estimated to cost about $46.8 million, is the first step of a four-phase project to redesign the central library space on campus over the next several years, set to cost roughly $250 million in total.

After the conversion, five of the Main Library’s six main stacks will be demolished. A five-story infill containing a modernized “interdisciplinary hub” for students and faculty will be built in their place.

On the board of trustees’ capital budget proposal, set for a vote today, the UI will request $100 million from the state for fiscal 2023 to finance those portions of the project.

“Gone are the days when libraries simply held books and journals and offered quiet study spaces for students. The libraries now play a vital role as digital learning centers, supporting students, faculty and staff,” the budget item reads.

Construction set for 2023

Finally, a roof will be added to the Special Collections building, “of a height and angle so as not to disturb the neighboring Morrow Plots,” according to the UI Library’s web page.

The Undergrad Library’s phase of construction is scheduled to begin in January 2023 and finish around May 2024, said Wilkin, who expects all the rare collections units to be placed in the new underground facility by 2025.

“That timeline we have very clearly; the rest of it, we don’t,” he said.

The fall and spring semesters hold two key priorities: confirming the details of the library’s redesign and finalizing an escape plan for its student services. Both will be discussed at today’s meeting and Q&A, and campus attendants are encouraged to bring their assessments.

All of the Undergrad Library’s volumes will be transferred to different locations on campus — including the Main Library stacks and Oak Street Library Facility — by winter break, said the library’s chief communications officer, Heather Murphy.

With the Champaign-based Ratio Architects and Boston-based Shepley Bulfinch engineering firms locked into the renovation, there’s an opportunity to finalize the layout for these collections, aesthetics of the space and eventually the finishes of the room and furnishings, said Tom Teper, associate dean and librarian.

“This semester is all about the Ratio and Shepley Bulfinch firms, making real what we’re going to do, getting things very concrete, and we’re coming to the conclusion of that phase right now,” Wilkin said. “All of those things are moving into high gear.”

Preliminary plans in place

The last time the library checked in with staff and students, designs were still in the conceptual stage: the university was still exploring if all the elements would fit into the Undergrad Library space, Teper said.

Now the question isn’t an if, but how the collections will fit into the space and what the layout will look like aesthetically.

Officials have formulated preliminary plans on where the library’s student services and study locations will be distributed across campus by fall of 2022.

Its Media Commons space will join the Scholarly Commons in the Main Library, while some space will be allocated for the Writing Center in the upstairs venue as well, Wilkin said.

Study spaces will likely be spread across many of campus’ other libraries, such as the Funk ACES Library, Grainger Library and the Main Library itself.

“All the services will be fully incorporated, and there will be spaces for students for when they come back in the fall,” Wilkin said.

The distribution of the Undergrad Library’s services will be key a point of emphasis for input today.

“We’re doing this with the intent of getting feedback from individuals that can help us shape those services going forward and provide services that are going to meet the needs of the community,” Teper said.

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