Library Renovations On The Horizon

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

The Sojourner Truth Library (STL) will soon be subject to an overall renovation that will temporarily displace all activity and materials to the concourse-level area as the main floor undergoes construction.

The $14.3 million renovation project, which is expected to last into the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, is aimed to provide students with advanced study materials and an environment better-suited for completing their academic work, Library Dean Mark Colvson said. Two main focuses of the project are to provide more collaborative workspaces for study groups in addition to installing numerous windows to let more natural light into the space, Colvson said.

In a presentation on the renovation plan held Oct. 28, Colvson along with library staff and facilities management highlighted what to expect from the many updates that STL will be given in the coming year.

To begin the first phase of the renovation, Colvson said, the library staff is currently working on transporting all contents of the main floor down to the second level by the time final exams begin this semester. Once the area is completely empty, it will be opened up to the construction team to begin work and an alternative library entrance will be allocated.

“In order for us to keep the library open, which is a commitment we have made to the campus, we need to prepare the lower floor to accommodate the library’s main functions while they’re working on the main floor,” Colvson said. “This means that there will be a new entrance to the library located on the Lecture Center corridor.”

The new entrance will be installed near the Lecture Center level library classroom, STL 17, Colvson said. An area of brick has already been exposed to cinder block so that the vestibule entrance can be introduced accordingly.

The plan for the library’s main floor is mapped out into an open floor plan that expands glass windows across the west wall, which will give students a view of the Shawangunk Mountains that is currently closed in by its current infrastructure. Ten group-study rooms will be added to the space, which are planned to be equipped with technology such as smart-boards and projectors for groups to utilize, Colvson said. A new “combined service desk” is planned for the first floor as well, where many library staff members will be stationed to help multiple visitors in one centralized area.

Head of Library Information Systems Kristy Lee said since the lower level will be utilized for multiple needs of students, the area cannot hold as many computers as the first level’s allowance of 60 computers. To alleviate some stressors of limited computer access, Lee said that both the Lecture Center and Coykendall Science Building will be extending the hours of their labs. The Academic Computing website has schedules of when each computer lab on campus is open for use, she said.

Since the volume of visiting students facing the main floor’s relocation is very large, Colvson said additional areas around campus have been allocated to provide students with quiet areas to get their work done.

“The Lecture Center has agreed to stay open for the entire period that the library is open so that people can overflow into the classrooms that aren’t in use,” he said. “The Student Union Building has agreed to provide quiet study space for off-hours, like weekends, to expand possibilities for students in times when things might get crowded in the library — as well as times when it’s noisy during construction. We’re looking to support that as best as we can by providing these alternative spaces. The late night study in the College Terrace will continue to operate and will be available beyond the normal closing hours of the library.”

With the current impact of construction causing parking lot closures and limitations on campus, such as the new residence hall and science building, Facilities Director John McEnrue said any spaces surrounding the library that are fenced off now will be the full extent of parking lot closure caused from project.

According to McEnrue, the funding for the renovation project was secured in 2008 — but the timing and financial situation wasn’t the best so it was put off until now. Though it is cheaper and smaller than the current construction projects on campus now, McEnrue said it is much more complicated since the other half of the building will still be in use.

“Relatively speaking, this is $14 million so it’s a smaller project, but from where I sit, it’s probably one of the most complicated projects as we have to phase it,” he said. “We don’t have the site onto itself in a sense that we can have contractors on-site building up — we have to work around the students who are studying and faculty who are doing their research [in the lower level].”

Aside from the technological updates, Colvson said that an upgrade in food services present in the library may also be in the works.

“The [STL] Starbucks will close as the main floor closes but it will reopen,” he said. “I believe the plan is to open it as not a ‘We Proudly Serve’ Starbucks, but a full Starbucks café.”

Colvson urges for the campus community to follow the progress of the library renovation by logging onto its website at This site provides up-to-date information on progress, frequently asked questions and methods for those with questions to get in touch with the renovation team.

“[The construction is] a short-term pain, but in a lot of ways this is the sign of the health of SUNY New Paltz,” Colvson said. “We are doing this project to build up our library and space on campus after a long period of not getting the support to build up the college. It’s not fun to lose the space in the library or to lose some parking around it, but the end result is going to be really wonderful for everyone.”


About Kristen Warfield 72 Articles
Kristen is a fourth-year journalism major and editor-in-chief of The Oracle.