Plans for library expansion hit the fast track
Alumni and friends who haven’t visited Virginia Commonwealth University since 1975 would find changes aplenty: new academic buildings, student housing, parking decks, athletic facilities and dining options — all designed to enhance and improve the experience of students and those who engage with one of the country’s leading research universities.
Yes, visitors today would notice many changes, including a student population that’s nearly doubled in size. But one thing hasn’t changed on the Monroe Park Campus since 1975: the James Branch Cabell Library.
“I took classes at VCU in the ’60s. I loved the atmosphere then and I love it now. The library is the center of everything. It’s the hub,” said James T. Moore III, president of the VCU Friends of the Library Board. “Today, we need more space to support the research of the university and more room for special collections. The staff has done such a miraculous job in making areas for students to get more out of the library. We’ve made strides in providing different types of study areas for students, but in order to continue to better serve our students and all who use the library and to become accredited as a research library, we simply need more space.”
Moore is pleased that an updated facility, one that will keep pace with the needs of students and the university community, is closer to being realized. Plans for a new student academic commons and library expansion are on the fast track thanks to funding approved by the 2012 General Assembly in support of the project. The preliminary funding will cover the solicitation and selection of the architect/engineering firm responsible for turning VCU’s vision, as articulated by University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider, into reality.
“Our goal is to create nothing less than first-in-class academic work space for our students in a building distinguished by the vibrancy and energy it reflects from the VCU community,” Ulmschneider said.
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., is also pleased with the expansion plans. “As we continue to make progress toward becoming the nation’s premier urban, public research university, it is essential that we have learning space commensurate with our ambitions,” Rao said. “That includes a 21st-century research library that meets the needs of our student scholars and faculty researchers. We are grateful for the support of our governor and General Assembly and look forward to engaging our other partners to make this project a reality.”
The initial phase of the process includes an architectural design for the new building, renovation plans to connect the new student academic commons to the existing library and construction drawings.
The facility, which includes 82,000 square feet of new construction and 80,000 square feet of improvements to the existing building, will be designed to meet the needs of today’s students by offering 90 group-study spaces with seats for 484; advanced computers, large monitors and technology to provide work spaces for small classes and project collaborations; a 50-seat digital media studio; high-speed wireless network access; and computer displays and whiteboards.
The estimated budget of $47.5 million from public sources, augmented by a private fundraising campaign, will provide 162,000 square feet of library space expected to be ready for use by September 2015.
To learn more about VCU Libraries, contact Kimberly R. Separ (M.A. ’97), director of development and community relations, at (804) 827-1163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.