February 12, 2004

New facility will speed Morris Library renovations

by Tom Woolf

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- Plans for a new storage facility on the southwest side of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus will shave as much as two years and $715,000 off the Morris Library expansion/renovation project.

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees today (Feb. 12) approved plans for the 50,000-square-foot facility, which will house materials and staff during the library project. As part of today's presentation, board members looked at the artist's renderings of the library.

The University will apply the savings from the library project toward the $3.5 million cost of the storage facility. SIUC will finance the rest of the cost over 20 years, retiring the debt service with a combination of income funds and other non-appropriated funds allocated to the chancellor's office.

One possible site for the steel and brick building is the northwest corner of Pleasant Hill and McLafferty roads. University officials are also considering the southeast corner of Poultry Center and McLafferty roads. After completion of the library project, the new building could serve as a new home for SIUC Plant and Service Operations department, now at the heart of campus.

"This would move the traffic, recycling, motor pool and other services, freeing up valuable space in the center of campus," said SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler during the presentation to the Board. "It will allow us to keep the collection on campus, and accessible during construction," he added.

David H. Carlson, dean of Library Affairs, said the change would also make the project move faster.

"When we first started talking about our project, we were talking about a four-five year transition period with a three- or four-stage process of moving in, moving out, moving down, moving up," Carlson said. "We're now down to two stages and moving out in a really aggressive fashion. I think this will be more effective. There is no plan out there that is problem-free."

The $42 million library renovation and expansion is the largest capital project in the University's history. It includes a 50,000-square-foot addition and a complete makeover of the existing building's exterior and interior. Relocating the bulk of the library's collections as well as staff to the new storage facility will mean completion of the library project in two to three years, compared to the original estimate of four to five years.

The project's cost and the chaos generated by a massive construction undertaking are the driving forces behind the plan for the temporary storage building.

"This is certainly being driven by the budget and the realization that the more money we save on this transition phase, the more we can put into long-term, permanent things," Carlson said. "The other big reason is an increasing realization that when all of this is going on, we don't really want to be here. It's going to be very chaotic."

James W. Fox, building planning librarian, noted that some of the library's collection already is in storage.

"In addition, we'll be moving about 2 million volumes or eighty-five percent of what we have in this building," he said.

The storage facility project requires approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, which the University hopes to obtain in April. Philip S. Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations, said he is targeting Oct. 1 as the completion date for the project.

Once the move is complete, only the basement and part of the first floor of the library will remain open.

"We'll keep 10 years' worth of periodicals on the lower levels of Morris, plus what comes in during the project," Fox said. "We'll also have electronic resources, reserve and reference materials here. Patrons will be able to submit requests for the books and documents that are here and we'll get those retrieved within a couple of hours."

He explained that a patron requesting a recent book housed in temporary storage can keep the book for at least four weeks.

"If it's a journal and you're not a faculty member, you can't check it out, you've got to look at it here, make photocopies here," Fox said. "We thought it would be much more convenient to people, given those kinds of restrictions, to keep things here that have the most restrictions on them."

Carlson said library officials also understand that faculty want to be able to access the collection in the storage facility.

"We don't anticipate creating a study space, but we do have every intention of enabling those who want to be able to come out to browse the stacks to be able to do so," he said. "We may not match the service hours with the browsing hours. We may find that this storage facility is open to faculty and staff a more limited number of hours."

Carlson hopes to provide patrons with a two-hour guarantee on retrieval of items from temporary storage.

"We're going to be as aggressive as we possibly can with delivery options," he said. "Right now, probably a third of our collection is in storage. We're just adding to it, though granted, it's a big addition. But we're not going to be complacent about our current delivery options. We'll be taking requests electronically. I'd also like to think we'll talk about delivering not just to the library, but even delivering to offices. That's an option for us to think about. I hope that's not such a bad offer."

Watch the library's Web site, http://www.lib.siu.edu, for updates.