Library Construction Suspended

Major renovations of the Sojourner Truth Library’s (STL) main floor were planned to begin in August, but have been temporarily suspended, John Mc Enrue, director of facilities design and construction, said.

“The State University Construction Fund (SUCF), in consultation with the College administration, terminated, for convenience, its contract with the original general contractor for the project,” he said. “‘For convenience’ is a legal term that allows the SUCF to end the contract, without reason, when it believes it is in their’s and the campus’ best interest to do so.”

The anticipated summer renovations required the main floor to be empty and in preparation for the construction, about 99 percent of the collection was moved off the main level and placed into movable shelving on the lower levels, STL Dean W. Mark Colvson said.

“The plan was to do all of the preparatory work over the summer to empty the main floor, setting up temporary space for the librarians and moving desks, the public services desks, reference, information desk and the circulation desk, all of that had to be moved down,” he said. “So some of that work had begun, but halted before it got too far along.”

Outreach librarian Morgan Gwenwald said the main level contained the reference collection, a video/media collection, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers. All materials except for the newspapers, were relocated to the bottom two floors where stackable books are located, she said.

Gwenwald said that half of the library’s collection was moved by hand, mostly with the help of students.

“It’s been like one of those puzzles,” she said. “We only have one little square and you got to move everything around and back and forth, back and forth to get the picture. It’s just been crazy.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Governance Jonathan Espinosa has been working with library officials to make the transition smoother for students. One of the complaints he’s heard has been about the placement of reference books on the second floor of the library.

“It would be more helpful that they return to the first floor because a lot of students use them,” Espinosa said. “But…the library staff [has] no intentions to make that move. So, I will be contacting the dean of the library to address this issue.”

Espinosa said he is in contact with Colvson and Vice President of Finance Jacqueline DiStefano to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Gwenwald said that as part of the preparation to move downstairs, some computers were eliminated because there wasn’t enough room. Most of the furniture in the main reading room is gone, so additional furniture will be taken out of storage to fill the room, she said.

Computers were ordered to replace those lost to prep work and will be quickly installed for student use, Colvson said.

According to McEnrue, the library renovations will continue and more details are to come in the near future when plans are confirmed. Presently, unfinished work is in the process of being completed.

Last week, demolition in the southeast corner of the concourse level was being completed, Megan Smailer, campus architect, said.

Previous areas that were under construction before the suspension will be completed within the next few months, she said. These areas include the concourse public corridor, the lower east side concourse staff office space and the new rooms on the ground floor that will become the microform rooms. Work on the remaining portion of the main floor and two smaller areas on the concourse floor will be finished when a new contractor begins, she said.

Smailer said Jazzman’s café, the neighboring bathrooms and the concourse corridor are currently closed.

When completed, Smailer said that the STL will be updated to meet the growing demands of the ages.

“The library needs to catch up with how students access information, study and learn in the current digital age,” she said. “This project will expand technology services and better fulfill the expectations of today’s library user.”

The installation of new windows on the main floor will give students a view west toward the Shawangunk Ridge, while also opening up the interior of the space, Smailer said.

During this process, Colvson hopes to increase the flow of conversation between faculty and students about what is happening with the STL.

“My goal is to have lots of conversations about what’s going to be happening on this floor and when we do re-open, to make sure that there really is a continuation that the library is at the center of academic life on campus,” he said.