First floor of Clemons closed for renovations until May 2019 in preparation for Alderman improvements

Renovations include the installation of “User-Operated Compact Shelving”

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The first floor of Clemons Library is expected to re-open May 2019. 

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

A year after unveiling a series of major renovations to the second floor of Clemons Library, which began in May 2016 and was completed by the fall of 2017, the first floor of the library will be closed until May 2019, for renovations as well in preparation for planned renovations to adjacent Alderman Library. 

English Prof. John Unsworth, University dean of libraries and University librarian, said the primary purpose of the renovations will be to install “user-operated compact shelving” to accommodate at least half a million texts from the sciences and humanities section currently located in nearby Alderman Library while it undergoes an extensive $160 million renovation process. 

Alderman, the University’s main humanities and social sciences library, currently holds 1.7 million bound print materials in its stacks. During the renovation, all of the shelved materials in Alderman will be removed and temporarily stored in Clemons and the Ivy Stacks — a closed, climate-controlled storage facility located near North Grounds.

The renovation will reduce available shelving for print materials in Alderman, however, combined with Clemons Library, the physical collection after the renovation will range between 1.5 million and 2.3 million materials depending on the use of compact shelving.

Unsworth said the compact shelving at Clemons will allow for space-saving abilities on Clemons’s first floor and will cost just under $5 million, which he said was raised by the University’s library system.

With the installation of the new shelving, Unsworth said users will be faced with a compact group of 10 or 12 compressed stacks with aisles that will open manually to allow removal of books.

“That allows you to pack in more books in the same amount of floor space,” Unsworth said. “Our goal is to outfit Clemons One to hold a half-million volumes or more, and during the renovation of Alderman, in which Alderman will be completely closed, Clemons will be the browsable social sciences and humanities section.”

Currently, major renovations for Alderman Library are scheduled to begin by the summer of  2020 with the removal of asbestos from the stacks, although the project is still awaiting approval from the University’s Board of Visitors and the allocation of funds by the Virginia General Assembly during the 2019 session, Unsworth said. 

The renovations are set to demolish both of the old and new stack additions to the main part of the library, which were built in 1938 and 1967, respectively. A new addition would be created, but many of the stacks, which house part of the library’s print book collection, will be replaced with student study spaces.The addition will also come with terraces on the north side of Alderman, providing views out onto University Avenue. 

Unsworth said the relocation of the texts from Alderman to Clemons and the Ivy stacks will take approximately six months, ideally beginning by May 2019 and finishing by the end of the year. 

“We figure it will take us about six months to move the collections out of Alderman to Clemons, and some to the Ivy stacks building, which was doubled in size last year in preparation for this project,” Unsworth said. 

A petition was circulated earlier this year opposing the relocation of materials from Alderman during the renovation process also expressed concern regarding the use of compact shelving, stating that it limits the option to easily browse books in the stacks for research. 

A number of students expressed their dissatisfaction with the the temporary closure of the first floor of Clemons, specifically citing the space’s designation as a strictly quiet study area in the library. 

Third-year College student Stephanie Lin said she was surprised the University chose to close the first floor of Clemons for an entire academic year. 

“[I was] in shock because Clem One is the place everyone I know would go to for intense studying,” Lin said. “I really miss the atmosphere because it allowed me to focus fully on what I had to do, and now I’m struggling to find the same environment clem One provided.”

Lin added that she was struggling to find a comparable study location on Grounds, given the first floor of Clemons’s designation as a silent study space. 

Unsworth said the University Library anticipated such concerns from students and has compiled a list study spaces around Grounds based on their sound level. The majority of Alderman Library is considered to be quiet study space as well as portions of Brown Library. Unsworth also said roughly 2,000 students enter Alderman per day, although it is unclear how the renovations on the first floor of Clemons may affect this number. 

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