Students walking into Ekstrom Library when fall classes begin may not recognize their surroundings. The first floor of the library, which opened in 1981, is set to undergo major renovations over the summer break.
Most of the changes will focus on consolidating student services, increasing study space and matching to the aesthetic of the library’s newer west wing.
“The first major change will be consolidating service desks into one point,” said Associate Dean of Libraries and Director of Ekstrom Library Bruce Keisling. “You’ll have a clear line of sight.”
Students will also have access to more study and group space due to the removal of the lobby stairwell, the opening up of the large study room near the current media desk and the renovation of the study spaces behind the computer commons.
“(We are) opening it up to have a more active, light-filled, dynamic group study space,” said Keisling. “I’m most excited about seeing light. You want to come to come in and you want to feel that there’s light and life and activity. We want to see that as an opportunity to help students feel good about coming into the space and using the space. That’s ultimately what it’s about.”
The writing center, currently located on the third floor, will also be given new space on the first floor, near where the computers are currently. According to Keisling, they will have offices attached to new reference staff offices.
“One big change that we’re trying to make here, and this is part of the vision that (Dean of Libraries Robert Fox) had, is to make service more obvious, make it more readily available and to bring all of the primary student support services to this main floor to contribute to student success,” Keisling said.
As to what will happen to the space where the writing center currently is, specific plans are still up in the air.
“The short term goal would be just to open it up. We’re still reviewing the longer-term goals,” he said. “This third floor space is the next target, the next opportunity. The vista from that third floor space is hopefully going to be a prime reading and student research space.”
“I hope to see more group and quiet study space,” said SGA Academic Vice President Allie Funk. “The first floor renovations include more group study rooms and quiet study space and I know this is a big priority for the future renovations on the third floor.”
The project was funded by a major donor and other sources secured by Dean Fox. According to Funk, SGA had no involvement in funding the first floor renovation, but will have some involvement in funding a possible third floor renovation.
With all recent library projects, students have played a role in the planning.
“They have worked very closely with the Dean,” said Associate Dean for Assessment, Personnel and Research Melissa Laning, who says this has been continued since former SGA Presidents Justin Brandt and Carrie Mattingly. “It’s just been a strong partnership as a source of information and encouragement, along with the student advisory board.”
According to Funk, SGA has had regular meetings with Fox and Keisling about the project.
“I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to work with Dean Fox and Director Keisling,” she said. “They constantly ask for our feedback and truly care about students’ well-being and opinions.”
Laning also stressed that the library’s student advisory board provided a lot of important feedback on the project, and that the project hopes to fulfill their vision.
“The architects have done a really good job of reflecting (student needs) in the design.” she said.
So what should students expect?
“They should be prepared for a little dust and a little noise this summer, but be prepared for a wow and a really transformational experience,” said Keisling. “The aspiration is that it will start on May 4, and my goal is to have it finished by August 15. Between May 4 and August 15, I can’t be much more specific.
“I want this project finished before fall classes,” he said. “We want this to be profoundly exciting and energetic.”
Photo by Rachel Essa / The Louisville Cardinal