Libraries Complete $5 Million Renovations Over the Summer

2332 libraries
The newly-renovated Barker Engineering Library provides a bright and quiet atmosphere for working.
Jennifer L. Wong

Looking for a cool new place to study this semester? MIT recently renovated two of its largest libraries. Dewey Library boasts a $4.6 million facelift that includes expanded group study space and more environmentally responsible features. Barker Library gained a brighter reading room and inherited the orphaned collections of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Library, which was closed in June. The collections of the other closed library, Lindgren, have been relocated to Hayden.

The Barker Library reading room “used to be dark and dingy … there were these journal racks that had really gross gray carpeting and had lights that would flicker all the time and you wouldn’t be able to see what you were looking for. You could never tell who was there or how many people would be there,” said Roshni Gohil, a staff member.

While renovations on the interior of the dome have been completed, the exterior of the dome will continue to be obscured until construction is completed in mid-November.

According to Millicent R. Gaskell, Head Librarian at Dewey Library, the library underwent over eight months of renovation and six months of administrative work and planning. Renovations began last December and were completed at the end of August to accommodate students for the new school year.

Changes to Dewey Library include the creation of new group study rooms that are equipped with wall-mounted LCD screens with laptop connector cables, conference phones, cork floor tiles to create a quieter learning space, and large white boards to facilitate group work.

In addition to facilitating group work, renovations at Dewey Library foster a sense of environmental responsibility. Water-conserving fixtures that are solar powered have been placed in bathrooms, energy-efficient lighting has been installed to turn on when there is someone in the room, and bathroom counters are made of recycled glass and concrete.

Due to more compact shelving, Dewey’s collection capacity has increased said Gaskell. The renovations also corrected humidity problems in the basement.

“I like the fact that it has so much more group study space than it used to. Before it was hard to find a place to actually collaborate on projects. Now that I know how to actually use the online reservation site, it is actually handy in that you don’t have to fight with people for the spaces. I also like the look of it now. It’s more modernized; before, it had a depressing 1970s feel that many old buildings have at MIT. It’s been freshened up a bit,” said Peter H. Rigano ’10.

Barker’s renovations were funded by an endowment specific to the library and was a “small budget project that went a long way,” said Heather Denny, MIT Libraries Communication Officer. The current estimate for the cost of those renovations is $272,000, according to Keith Glavash, MIT Libraries Associate Director for Administration.

The renovations for Dewey Library, on the other hand, were funded by the Committee for Review of Space and Planning. The Dewey renovations carry a $4.6 million price tag that is spread evenly across the previous, current, and next fiscal years, said Glavash. The discussions for renovations had long been in the works and the renovation project had been scheduled before any substantial budget cuts had been made.

To reduce their budget by $1.4 million, the MIT Libraries closed the Lindgren Library and the Aeronautics and Astronautics Library over the summer. Denny said the decision to close these libraries stemmed from the intent to “keep the resources that students rely on us for while making cuts that would be most reasonable.” Much of the Aero-Astro Library’s collections were moved to the Barker Engineering Library on July 2, 2009; relocated materials included journals, books, theses, CDs, and DVDs. Lindgren’s collection of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences’ books, journals, and CDs were moved to Hayden library as of August 4th.

The previously occupied spaces of the Aero/Astro and Lindgren libraries will be allocated to different purposes subject to discussions between the sponsoring departments and the MIT Libraries.