Main Library gets modern makeover


The University has plans to add a modern touch to the Main Library, including adding a Media Commons modeled after the one currently in the Undergraduate Library. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

By Ashley Fu, Contributing Writer

The University is giving the Main Library a $54-million modern makeover which will be completed in 2024, the year the library turns 100 years old.

John Wilkin, dean of libraries and University librarian, said in an email the oldest stack ranges in the Main Library will be replaced with a modern facility.

“Our students will not only find spaces to study and collaborate in the redesigned building, but they will also have access to state-of-the-art services like the Media Commons,” Wilkin said. “By consolidating our services, we should also be able to provide better access to facilities.”

The Undergraduate Library will also play a part in the project, Wilkin said in a follow-up email.

The University Archives and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library will find a home at the Undergraduate Library after the project is completed.

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“Our incredible rare book, manuscript and archival collections have never had a home and have been scattered. This will allow us to bring these special collections together and provide a better environment for the services and materials,” Wilkin said.  

Wilkin said the older part of the Main Library’s stacks are no longer suitable for the collection, and the project offers an opportunity to replace them with a better space for the students while supporting the University’s world-class collection.

The excess books from the Main Library will be moved to other facilities, like the Oak Street Library.

David Henry Ward, head of the UGL, said there are not any definitive plans for the project at the moment, and he is unsure if the library will temporarily close for the renovation.

Ward said student advisory groups will play a part in assessing the current services at the library, and will be able to add their own input concerning the design of the library.

“There will be town hall meetings that engage students and faculty in the design process,” Wilkin said.

Wilkin said the project was originally proposed in 2009 with a budget of $300 million. However, the proposed price tag seemed too expensive, and the budget was cut down to $54 million.

“The first thing that was going to be done would be an additional structure built in the Main Library and it would be a very large book storage facility. All six stack ranges would be demolished and a much larger building would have been built. That was too large for the university and part of the problem. We won’t do the original plan but it will be sufficient for our needs,” he said.

The new plan will be similar to the original plan, with the RBML moving into the UGL, but the rest of the changes will be much less dramatic than the original plan had proposed.

Though there is no set date for when the project will embark, the additions and renovations to the library are expected to be finished in 2024.

“We don’t know the logistics for the demolition and the construction,” Wilkin said.

He said the library staff also need to do considerable work to plan for the services and collections that will be housed in the two facilities. Funds still need to be raised to help move the project along.

“I’m excited by the possibility of our university working together to write the next chapter of our great Library’s history. We will be able to shape an effort that reflects the distinctive culture of the University of Illinois, supporting work across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities and social sciences, all while better supporting our extraordinary library collections,” Wilkin said.

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