By Alex Nicoll
The Razorback Reporter
All she wanted to do was prepare for her thermodynamics test.
Anxiety mounted in junior Genesis Espinoza’s mind as she worked her way, floor by floor, through David W. Mullins Library, spending 20 minutes searching a spot that she could spread out and study her materials.
Study space was so sparse, she stopped going altogether started going to Bell Engineering Center instead, she said.
Espinoza’s frustration is a common one, she said. To help rectify this problem and to go along with a national trend, the renovation underway at Mullins will include more study space for multipurpose uses.
Over 40 percent of Americans said they think libraries possibly should move library stacks to make room for more meeting spaces or tech centers, 24 percent of people said libraries definitely should move stacks. Fifty-seven percent said libraries should definitely have more comfortable spaces, according to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center.
“The way people use the main library has changed so significantly,” said Carolyn Allen, UA dean of libraries.
One way library officials have tried to push Mullins toward this growing trend is by building the 27,000-square foot storage building off Hill Avenue in south Fayetteville that will be able to hold an estimated 1.8 million volumes, according to the UA libraries’ website. Moving these materials out of Mullins will free up space to go toward group-study areas.
The collections the UofA receives have increased, Allen said. That, coupled with the growing UA enrollment, has led to a need for more study space in the library.
When enrollment reaches 30,000, which is the maximum that Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz wants, the library will need 3,000 to 3,400 more seats, Allen said.
One plan will include space for lectures and programs as well as independent study when it is not in use by a class or group, Allen said.
Besides more study space, other renovations for Mullins will include updated fire sprinklers, HVAC system, lights and asbestos abatement.
The renovation to Mullins is scheduled to begin by fall 2018, and be completed by January 2020. The estimated cost – $16.5 million – will be paid for by bonds, said Daniel Clairmont, director of engineering and construction for Facilities Management.
The storage building will be three times as large as the one in use on campus. The proposed site will have larger preservation space and will have better quality-control options including temperature gauges, moisture-control barriers and pest-repellent measures that will prolong the shelf life of the university’s collections, Allen said.
Three library staff members will work in the storage building and shuttle materials to Mullins from the building Mondays through Saturdays.
Discussion about getting new library storage began in 2007, but it was not until two years later that UA officials conducted a cost study to assess a complete renovation and expansion of Mullins. The price tag was heftier than officials realized, at $84 million.
“That was way out of the ballpark,” Allen said.
Instead of a full-scale renovation, Allen and other UA officials decided to make modest changes over the course of the last five to seven years. Some of these changes included reducing the size of the reference collection, adding computers to the periodicals room and creating more open bays for study space.
“We’ve done all we can do to the existing space without tearing down walls,” Allen said.
The current renovation and new storage building did not come to fruition until around 2015, Allen said.
The building is being built and is scheduled to be completed by July 2018, according to the libraries’ website. The cost to complete the building is $14.6 million, which will be paid with bonds, Clairmont said.
Espinoza was excited about the prospect of having more space to study, she said.
“It will be a very great idea,” Espinoza said. “I think there will be many students who’ll like it.”
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