UI Library postpones UGL closure to next fall, plans to hold ‘town halls’ on conversion project


Cameron Krasucki

The University Library’s plans to convert into a special collections facility have been postponed until next fall.

By Willie Cui, Assistant Daytime News Editor

The University Library plans to close the Undergraduate Library next fall to prepare for its conversion into a special collections facility

Initially, the University Library planned to close the UGL in January, but this has been postponed to give the contracted architecture firms time to draft the construction plans for the new facility, which will house library archives and rare book and manuscript collections. 

“While we don’t have a final date for closing UGL to the public for the construction, it’s safe to say that all UGL services and collections will have shifted to Main and other libraries on campus by the fall semester of this coming academic year,” said John Wilkin, dean of the University Library and University librarian, in an email.

Over the summer, the University Library announced that the Boston-based architecture firm Shepley Bulfinch will lead the design process for the new facility alongside the Champaign-based firm RATIO Architects.

The conversion project is currently in the “schematic design” phase, according to Tom Teper, an associate dean for the University Library who is helping coordinate the conversion project.

During this phase, the architecture firms will take the conceptual plans for the converted UGL, which were completed last spring, and adapt them into actual schematic designs for the new special collections facility.

“You saw the conceptual plans before — they were shared with the campus and they’re online now,” Wilkin said. “Those conceptual plans are the basis for the schematic design.”

After the current phase is complete, the project will enter the “design development” phase, when actual construction plans would be drafted, according to Teper.

At the moment, Teper expects the schematic designs to be submitted by Nov. 9 and the design development plans to be submitted by Jan. 22, although he noted the timetable for later phases of the project deadlines become “a little squishier” due to additional levels of review and approval the construction plans need to undergo.

“Once the final construction documents are submitted, the University would start soliciting bids on the project,” Teper said in an email. “Our goal for the construction start is Jan. 5, 2023.”

Last spring, faculty members expressed concern over the University Library’s plans, noting that the conversion project would lead to the displacement of undergraduates who use the UGL to study.

While the University Library developed a plan last spring to “integrate” undergraduate services into the Main Library and elsewhere, faculty members felt that the University Library failed to adequately communicate their intentions with the wider campus and neglected to take undergraduate needs into consideration.

“We’re quite convinced that it was largely because of pressure from us — from students and faculty who wanted to know what the plans were — that they then came up with these (integration) plans,” said Ralph Mathisen, professor in LAS and chair of the University Senate Library Committee.

The University Library and University Senate Library Committee will hold a series of “town hall” meetings regarding the UGL conversion, with the first tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18.

There, the University Library plans on discussing the new schematics and better addressing concerns about undergraduate displacement. 

“We want to ensure that there are open communications, that we are sharing information about progress on the project and to hear concerns about the requisite service changes that will entail,” Teper said.

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