Regents may move on Main Library

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Regents may move on Main Library

Marissa Payne, [email protected]

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The state Board of Regents’ Property and Facilities Committee on Wednesday agreed to recommend to the regents that they approve a $50 million modernization plan for the University of Iowa Main Library as part of the regents’ five-year state-funded capital plan.

Improvements to library would include, perhaps most notably, an expansion of the Library Learning Commons project.

“It serves all UI students, faculty, staff, and the public as well as the state,” said Rod Lehnertz, the UI vice president for Finance and Operations. “Much of the work that goes on in the building also benefits communities and [the] state.”

Because of its proximity to the Pentacrest, UI administrators chose the Main Library as the top priority in the capital plan, Lehnertz said.

“It’s a building that is constantly used, especially on our undergraduate side of the campus,” he said.

Additionally, the 400,000-square-foot building, which was constructed in 1951, has a “considerable” deferred maintenance need, Lehnertz said. The library’s deferred maintenance costs are $29.6 million, also the largest on campus.

“Roughly $21.5 million in non-state appropriated funds [are] already invested in that facility, leaving [us] to address the balance of the building and take care of all the deferred maintenance for the project itself,” he said.

More than 1 million people have visited the library in the past year, Lehnertz said.

UI student Kaylie Wilson said she thinks additional work done to improve the library will increase the number of visitors.

“I think that more renovations will draw more students in, because with anything that’s new, it automatically draws more attention,” she said. “They will want to continue coming back to use the new features of the library.”

With recent additions to the library such as the Learning Commons and a gallery space, Lehnertz said the UI continues to draw more people into the library.

“It’s a great mix of both museum and library sciences, and in fact currently has the First Folio of William Shakespeare on display,” he said. “The folio is on the national tour, [with] one location in every one of the 50 states.”

These renovations shift the library’s purpose from being a storage place to a location for students to engage in what Lehnertz refers to as “library-learning teaming experiences.”

“We have invested in an off-site storage facility that has a capacity for 5 million volumes and has allowed us to begin a decompression of the Main Library so that it isn’t just a collection and a storage facility for books but rather a facility for students, faculty, staff and the general public,” he said.

The UI has also announced plans to put a new art museum next to the library, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan in an interview with UI President Bruce Harreld.

“We’ll be able to put the new art museum next to the library but also at the same time we’ll be able to improve the library’s … systems and let the two buildings play off one another; maybe [we’ll] put some of the art in the library,” he said.

Lehnertz also acknowledged the benefits of choosing to put the museum near the Main Library.

“The site that we are proposing for our new museum being immediately south of the Main Library affords us … both developmental as well as operational efficiencies and the interactions between these two converging interests in student use of the campus, he said.”

Michael Hager, the vice president of Finance and Operations at the University of Northern Iowa, also proposed main-library modernization plans at the meeting as part of UNI’s five-year capital plans.

The regents will vote on the five-year capital plans at today’s meeting in the IMU.