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Plans to renovate the Stewart Library have been put on hold due to a petition signed by 127 faculty members, which outlines five major concerns.
Spearheaded by Susan Matt, chair of the Weber State University History Department, the petition read, “At the very least maintain the current
number of books in the Library’s collections, and preserve the physical space allocated to them; preserve uninhibited access to the majority of the collections, with open stacks; preserve the physical space of the Library for the core library functions of study and research rather than for large testing centers; survey students and faculty about the adequacy of the overall collection before making further decisions about space allocations, and finally halt the ‘weeding’ of the collection, pending further discussion.”
According to Joan Hubbard, WSU librarian, the main concern is allocating space for a new testing center to replace the one being lost in the science building. Despite the petition and subsequent hold on the project, she said she respects the faculty’s move to gain a better understanding of the project. Hubbard acknowledged it’s “not right” to have a testing center in the library but recognizes campus needs.
Another concern faculty addressed in the petition is reducing the size of the collection and perhaps the number of volumes in the Stewart Library.
According to Matt, WSU’s library is small in terms of number of volumes, with only about 560,000 in the collection, pointing out the comparison to Utah State University at approximately 1.8 million and the University of Utah at approximately 3.5 million volumes.
“The thought of making the collection smaller seemed like it went against the very notion of academic quality,” Matt said. “If WSU wants to be a un
iversity with academic credibility that has graduate programs and resources to support those programs, we need a bigger, not smaller library. The traditional heart of a university is a library, not a testing center.”
Carl Porter, executive director of WSU’s academic support centers and programs, pointed out that an additional testing center is needed on campus to replace the one lost when the science building is demolished. The proposed budget and footprint for the new science building doesn’t allow for a testing center.
The history department is the second-highest user of Chi Tester. “Approximately 33 percent of all tests administered by the university are created by the science faculty,” Porter said.
More than 100,000 tests are administered annually on campus, and the testing center in the science building is one of the busiest centers on campus, Porter added. Once the old science building is demolished, the students who use that center will be displaced.
The university has looked at numerous options to eliminate overcrowding and reduce the wait time at the different testing centers. According to Porter, midterms and finals are the busiest times, with testing centers at capacity. Eliminating the science building’s testing center will only add to this problem, he said.
The library has been consulting with two architectural firms — a firm in Salt Lake City, and an Indiana firm specializing in libraries — to conduct a feasibility study regarding a possible renovation. However, the process has been temporarily put on hold pending additional recommendations from the college’s library subject specialists and from the office of academic support centers and programs.
The faculty senate approved a motion at its Jan. 23 meeting to move forward with the library subject specialists soliciting their respective college faculty about their concerns on the library remodel addressed in the petition. The library subject specialists will give recommendations of their findings to the faculty senate’s executive committee at a future meeting.
“There will be a renovation, maybe not this year, or next year, but it will happen,” Hubbard said.
Approximately $11 million to $14 million has been allocated for the renovation.
The construction on the library was completed in two phases: Phase 1 on the south side of the building was completed in 1965, and Phase 2 on the north side of the building was completed in 1976. Since then, the library has gone through a series of upgrades, including a massive renovation in the late 1990s, removal of the breezeway and atrium addition in mid-2000, and, most recently, the replacement of the concrete stairs on the south side.
According to Hubbard, part of the renovation would include an entire upgrade to the HVAC system and replacement of ceiling tiles, all of which are original to the building.