At last week’s Academic Senate meeting, senators voiced their grievances about the timing of the Sojourner Truth Library’s (STL) first floor renovation closing in relationship to its close proximity to finals week, believing the closing to be inconsiderate to students’ need for an accommodating study area.
“I recognize the frustration the students experienced. I myself am not thrilled with the timing either. We worked really hard to provide every accommodation as possible,” Library Dean Mark Colvson said.
The project’s notice to proceed was issued to the project’s contractor, Pleasant Valley based Meyer Contracting Corp., on Oct. 6 by the State University Construction Fund, according to SUNY New Paltz Campus Architect, Megan Smailer. The State University Construction Fund provided capital funding for the project, totaling $14.3 million, she said.
Beginning on Thursday, Dec. 4, the STL and its services were shut down while library staff and service management were relocated from the first floor to the basement, opening for operation the next day in the temporary location.
“The goal was for the contract to be executed before the start of this semester and that we would aim to do the move over a break. However the complexity of executing a contract of this magnitude, $14 million, there are a lot of hoops that a contract has to go through and hiccups can occur that can slow that,” Colvson said.
Colvson said when the contract was finalized in October, preliminary planning for the project began to enable the library services move to the basement. This included wiring adjustments in the space, the construction of a temporary wall on the western end of the building and the creation of a basement entrance necessary for move prep.
“There is stuff that simply has to happen before we can move, which is why once put in motion, the construction could not be delayed [for past finals week],” Colvson said. “Everyday costs money [with workers under contract]. When you’re paying people to not work that pushes back the end date which will impact students as well. So it’s a balance on having a further impact on the spring and fall 2015 semester as opposed to taking the time now — even though it’s not ideal — so we can keep the project close to its scheduled completion date.”
SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian said delaying the renovation even another week would constitute a large financial setback because of the complicated nature of construction contracts.
“It would have cost a lot of money to delay the project. The contracts for a major renovation project like this are complex; the contractors are under timelines. They have crews working that have to proceed with their work,” Christian said. “There’s really no good time to [begin the project]. This has been announced repeatedly and there have been alternate locations set up.”
Colvson informed the campus community of the scheduled closing dates as far back as August and also hosted a Q&A session for the accommodations that would be made to students during the library’s renovation. Spaces have been made available in the Student Union building for quite study as well as the computer labs in Lecture Center 110 and 112 open during library hours, Colvson said.
“One of the not so ideal situations [we’ve had to deal with] is that of the late night study. I’ve been here since 2012 and I’ve never seen the late night study in the library, but that’s where it should be and we’ll be excited to get it back,” Colvson said.
Colvson said the project’s coordinators are “pushing hard” to complete the project by August in time for the the beginning of the fall 2015 semester.
“My vision for the library is of a collaborative space, an eventful space where things are happening. That’s not just my vision, it’s the vision of the community,” Colvson said. “When we get this building back it will more than make up for the shortcomings we’ll have to deal with currently.”