University Libraries set to begin first renovations to school since 1970s


Kent State is planning to start rennovations on the University Library, which hasn’t seen rennovations since the 1970s. Photo by Matt Hafley

Tyler Singleton

A walk through the twisting halls of the School of Library and Information Science in the University Library will reveal faculty members sharing offices and cubicles. As the faculty and school grew, little room was left for research and collaborative facilities.

Now, renovations will begin in eight weeks. New collaborative classrooms and 20 faculty offices will fill the vacated Audio and Visual Services studio on the third floor of the library.

“Two years ago, we had faculty sitting at a counter basically,” said Greg Byerly, associate professor for the SLIS. “I thought this was overdue. I’ve been here since 1975 and not much changed between 1975 and 2005. The world changed around it. I think the library is on the right track now.”

University Architect Michael Bruder said the renovations will conclude in Spring 2013, providing a “cohesive and functional” space.

Byerly said the new area will provide room for the school to increase students and faculty.

The changes will provide dedicated areas for the research centers within SLIS such as the Center for the Study of Librarianship and the Center for the Study of Information and Religion. Byerly said this will attract new staffers.

“When researchers go out to get grants, you need to be able to say, ‘When I get this grant, I will have X amount of space to do it in or there is a center that backs me up,’” Byerly said. “In the past, we’d have to say, ‘Yes, but we don’t know what room.’”

Along with helping with new research, Byerly said the renovations will provide space for current studies, including the work of assistant professor Catherine Smith. Google awarded Smith a research grant.

“When we were proposing this to the university, we were saying, ‘Look, we have a faculty member who is basically working in a garage with some students and that is not appropriate,’” Byerly said.

The renovations will also include the new MuseLab, a collaborative area equipped with museum-specific tools and equipment. Interim SLIS director Don Wicks said this creates a working place and model museum setting for student training.

Assistant professor Kiersten Latham said the MuseLab will not only assist the 115 students in her museum studies specialization, but also faculty and community members who need space for projects. Latham said the new renovations will contribute to the convergence movement or the coming together of library and museum individuals.

“I think space is really important for thinking,” Latham said. “The kind of space they are creating allows for us to have better thinking and more collaborative efforts. It is not separating us. It is allowing us to come together. I am hoping this physical space can help us be more of a community.”

Contact Tyler Singleton at [email protected].