Library Renovations to Begin Over Winter Break

South Wing to Undergo Structural Improvements For Earthquake Safety

Reedies who frequent the library for solitude and silence may need to make an adjustment this spring semester. Beginning winter break of 2021, the library is facing some major changes. While the majority of the building is sound, the south wing, extending towards Woodstock Boulevard, was built with unreinforced masonry, which could potentially be dangerous in the event of an earthquake. However, this construction work allows for an exciting opportunity to remodel and upgrade the south wing. 

Photo by Albert Kerelis

Photo by Albert Kerelis

“One thing that we always get requests for in the library are a few more group study rooms where people can go to chat,” said Reed College Libraria Dena Hutto. “So, we’ll have additional group study rooms on the lower and second levels of this new area.” 

The renovation will also involve the addition of compact shelving, single-user all-gender bathrooms on all four levels, and the conversion of the south wing’s third floor into academic space with a 24 student classroom, new faculty offices, and a breakroom. 

The construction company doing the library renovation, Riemers & Jolivette, is closely familiar with Reed’s campus. 

“Riemers & Jolivette is affectionately known as R&J around campus! They have done work at Reed for around forty years,” said Director of Facilities Services Steve Yeadon. “They did the dining hall renovation, the Cross Canyon renovations four years ago, and they built the Spanish house.”

Admittedly, there is something ironic about a library going through noisy construction work, but fortunately, the most disruptive part of the process should be completed over winter break. “During that part of the project they are going to bring new steel beams in to support the structure and do a lot of drilling, so there will likely be a lot of vibration and loud noise during that time,” Hutto said. 

Usually, a large project like this one would be broken up into phases and completed over a period of years. But, because of the nature of the work required, that won’t be possible in this case. “It’s going to be a particularly interesting project for us, because we try not to do this sort of big work in occupied space,” Yeadon said. “We are going to do our best to work around the programming and the needs of the people using the building.”

When the renovation was first being planned in the spring of 2019, there were a number of focus groups and discussions with students. Then, the project got pushed off until spring of 2020 for financial reasons. Not surprisingly, the unforeseen events of spring 2020 resulted in more project delays, so the start date was pushed back again to winter of 2021. 

“Unfortunately, a lot of the students we talked to about this back in 2019 have already graduated, so now there’s a new group of students who are hearing about this for the first time, and we really don’t have the luxury of spending time to redo those focus groups at this point,” Hutto said. 

A majority of the senior thesis desks are located in the south wing of the library and those spaces will be unavailable during construction. “One of the ideas that came out of the focus groups was to have three thesis zones which will be areas that are for the seniors but aren’t assigned, it will be sort of first come first served,” Hutto said. In a normal year, there are 457 seats with desks in the library and about 200 of those would usually get assigned to seniors. But this year, there will be 312 seats with desks and 120 of them will be in a thesis zone. Seniors can use these spots when they need to, but when they aren’t there, another senior can come in and use that same spot. 

The project should take about a year and will hopefully be completed by winter break of 2022. 

“It’s going to be an interesting space for students to use while the renovation is happening, but it really is important work to do for the safety of the building and everyone who uses it, so we’re really excited to get this done,” Yeadon said. 

“I’m sorry that the same students who lived through pandemic Reed have to go through this, but we will try to make it as painless as possible,” Hutto said. “And if students have ideas about how to make it more painless as we go along, I am certainly open to talking about that.”

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