Volume 12, Number 5 October 22, 2004

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Library set to launch $5-million campaign to upgrade facilities

By Lawrence McMahen

An expanded Learning Commons and easily accessible Circulation desk will be relocated to the Library’s ground floor, for a more open and inviting entrance than is currently there.

Library illustration

If the ambitious plan becomes a reality, the U of S Library is in for an extensive facelift over the next few years, improving the way it serves students, faculty and staff.

Last week, as officials announced the latest boost to the Library’s computer-based Learning Commons service for students, they quickly added that this is just the beginning.

They’re set to launch a major fundraising campaign at a gala downtown banquet in two weeks – and their aim is nothing less than a huge rejuvenation of the Main Library.

They want to raise at least $5 million to transform the building into a more open, user-friendly place that does a better job of hosting teaching and learning activities, research, small-group study, and students’ ever-increasing need for computer-based data retrieval and report preparation.

Library Director Frank Winter, Research Services and Collections Head Linda Fritz, and Development Officer Edna Warrington say the just-increased Learning Commons is just the kind of responsive and accessible feature that points the way the Library wants to go in the future.

In fact, they say the Learning Commons will be a showcase service that will occupy much of the new entrance area in the ground floor of the Main Library after the planned renovations.

“When you walk into the building now you see a bunch of gates and a security guard. It looks like a prison,” Warrington says.

But after the changes, “you’ll see Circulation and the Learning Commons – very wide open and inviting, with small group-study rooms around the perimeter,” she adds.

Fritz notes the original Murray Memorial Library building, now called the North Wing, was built 50 years ago, and the main building was built 30 years ago.

“We need to transform the space to make it far more user-friendly,” she says.

She adds that while the full plan for renovation is still in development, many of the main elements are known.

Besides the more welcoming and functional ground-floor entranceway, there will likely be expansion and remodelling of the third floor, so the Special Collections and University

Archives will have better storage space and a more spacious, comfortable reading room.

Also, around the Learning Commons will be group-study rooms.

In the Library’s latest newsletter, Winter says faculty and students want these changes as well as access to in-person librarians and good access to “ubiquitous technology”.

“The Main Library is poorly designed to meet these emerging needs,” Winter says.

Fritz says, “We need a state-of-the-art, functional, accessible library – so we need to make these changes.”

They add the Library also needs a high-density storage area for materials somewhere on campus.

Warrington says the Nov. 5 gala banquet will kick off a five-year, $5-million drive for capital construction money. It’s a formal, $150-a-plate dinner. (Details on Page 11.)

Fritz and Warrington say the latest boost to the three-year-old Learning Commons service was the addition last week of 10 new computer terminals and six new portals available for students to hook their own laptops into.

When it began in October 2001, the Learning Commons had 20 terminals – and with the latest addition it’s now up to 72. And Fritz and Warrington note the larger area devoted to the Learning Commons, on the Library’s first floor, beyond the circulation desk, sports new, open table surfaces that allow small groups of three or four students to work on a project around each terminal. Each machine allows students to use the full Microsoft Office programs, including PowerPoint, and they can “send, save or print” their work.

Fritz says the Library has also just begun to pilot a new “Ask a Librarian” online service, where from 10 a.m.–4:00 p.m. on weekdays, Library users can, in real time, ask a librarian for help, and get an answer quickly.

The Library’s Development Officer, Edna Warrington, left, and Research Services and Collections Head Linda Fritz chat in the newly expanded, computer-based Learning Commons.

Photo by Lawrence McMahen

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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