The English Students Association hosted a panel event Monday evening to discuss the future of books at Alderman Library, as plans for renovating the 78-year-old building are currently being developed.
Dean of Libraries Martha Sites said the building currently has a variety of infrastructural issues.
“We literally have boxes of rusty pipes down stairs,” Sites said. “We do not have climate control conditions in [the stacks] that will give the books the best conditions for them to thrive.”
Sites said the University has submitted a request of approximately $160 million to the state legislature to help fund the library’s renovation over a period of six years.
While state funding is the primary source for the University’s proposed renovations, the University has agreed to fund a “Plan B” if no funding commitment is granted by the state, Sites said.
“Plan B is a second tier renovation to the building that would address fire and safety issues,” Sites said. “There are no sprinkler systems in the building, for example.”
In addition to addressing plumbing and electrical infrastructure issues, Sites said she wants to see renovations to physical spaces.
Some students have expressed concern over the relocation of a large portion of Alderman’s books which would result in the proposed renovation of the library, including panelists from the English Students Association who organized the event.
Fourth-year College student Rachel Makarowski said one of the main concerns is the possibility of the University’s library system developing a reliance on online cataloging for its books and move away from the physical shelving of books.
“There is a power in being able to look at the shelf,” Makarowski said. “In a research library such as Alderman it is a major advantage to have that ability [to browse]. I'm not saying that the ability to browse will be completely taken away from us, but after the renovations that power will be diminished.”
Among the attendees of the event was former University President John Casteen, who spoke about the current state legislature’s standing on the proposed funding for the Alderman Library renovation.
“I would not bet the barn that we will find 160 million dollars on the table on the last day [of the current session],” Casteen said. “The State Council has been supportive, it's hard to find an enemy. The enemy is the political process and the fact that we don't have much internal consensus as to what ought to be done.”
Sites said while there have been no official plans for the renovations themselves, the University is seeking funding to support the initial first stages.
“Over the next month or so we will get some of these answers, and we will know what the extent of the renovations will be,” Sites said. “At that point a decision will be made to hire an architectural firm and that's for the actual detailed planning of the building.”