UB officials plan for fall 2016 reopening of Capen third floor library

Construction and asbestos issues delay reopening of Oscar A. Silverman Library


The Oscar A. Silverman Library on the third floor of Capen Hall won’t be open for at least another year.

Officials and architects for the project toured the now vacant and shelled out library on Thursday afternoon to envision what the project will be like for students when it opens, which they now hope will be sometime next fall.

The library, affectionately nicknamed “Club Capen” by students, closed down on Dec. 16, 2014 for renovation and was originally expected to be unveiled this November. But the re-opening has been delayed due to construction issues and asbestos removal, which has set back the design process.

“From our perspective it was only delayed by a few months but if we were able to open it up by April, we decided that we would just wait until August [2016],” said Kelly Hayes McAlonie, director of capital planning. “We thought it would open in November, and we just decided that we wanted to get the project right so we would take extra time.”

The renovations suffered a setback when asbestos fibers were discovered in the vinyl floor tiles of the library last spring.

“There’s more ongoing areas that we couldn’t get to before the people were moved out, so there continues to be some [asbestos] abatement but it’s being managed,” said Rhonda Ransom, project manager.

H. Austin Booth, vice provost for University Libraries, said the project “will transform the third floor of Silverman Library into a beautiful, inspiring, state-of-the-art place of destination for students, faculty and staff.”

“It will be a place where students come to meet, learn, study, think, reflect and create new knowledge to build the future,” Booth said. “We are very excited that this new space has been designed to reflect the diverse learning and studying styles of students for today and tomorrow.”

Developers expect the newly renovated third floor to be comprised of group study rooms with technology for viewing and outlets for laptops, a multimedia center and social spaces and casual areas for students to sit. It will also feature silent group study and casual group study areas.

The “grand reading room” will serve as a silent study room for students, which will be comparable to the Health and Sciences Library in Abbot Hall, according to Karen Senglaup, associate university librarian for administration.

Hayes McAlonie said there are 880 projected seats with “various types of learning seats.”

“It will be very colorful and contemporary but at the same time honoring our heritage, we’re going to have archival images around that talks about the history of UB,” Hayes McAlonie said. “We really want students to feel a connection to UB past, present and future and really engage in the community.”

Lockwood Library has served as UB’s only 24-hour library since the renovation of the third floor began last December, which led to students to complain about the limited study space during finals weeks last year.

And some students are disappointed with the delay of the reopening.

“I think it’s inconvenient because now I have to find somewhere else to study and as finals are approaching, all the libraries are [going to] be extremely full, so it just takes space away from everyone,” said Amber Tapia, a sophomore biology major.

Bruce Nagel, a junior geology major said the third floor of Capen was his “study place.” Nagel said Lockwood isn’t as studious and quiet as the third floor of Capen used to be.

“The only place we technically have is Lockwood and it’s a very depressing environment,” said Jodie-Ann Mullings, a junior psychology and communication major.

But Sai Vikneshwar, a graduate computer science engineering major said he is excited to see the newly renovated third floor.

“Maybe we will get a better library of sorts, more study rooms and more structure,” Vikneshwar said.

Each “neighborhood” of the library will feature a slightly different finish and color palette.

“Because it’s such a big space, we want to make sure everyone knows where they are at all times, so the idea is that each neighborhood or zone has its own family of colors,” Hayes McAlonie said. “Even though there will be signs that say silent, it will feel like you really should be quiet here, in the group seating area the [visual] cue will be that your conversation is welcome”

Senglaup said the library will evoke an “image of openness.”

“This is a multi-phase project that will really transform the student, faculty and staff experience, starting with the library,” Hayes McAlonie said.

Ashley Inkumsah is a news desk editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com.