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Reading Room Renovations Begin

By Angeline Wang

Renovations to the reading room on the fifth floor of the Student Center began on Monday with the removal of trace amounts of asbestos in the ceiling. Actual construction of the new 24-hour reading room should begin next week and will be completed “absolutely no later than September 1,” said Director of Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh.

The asbestos was in a thin layer of paint primer on the ceiling, which was removed while the room was sealed off, according to Undergraduate Association President Andrew T. Lukmann ’07, who said the UA has been gathering student input and involved with the project since 2001.

The architectural plans by Signer Harris Architects were finalized in late April with a final review by the CAC Advisory Board, Walsh said. The approved budget total for the project is slightly below $1.2 million.

Walsh said the renovations will essentially divide the reading room space into three different study environments: a lounge, individual study area, and group study area. The furnished lounge will be located near the entrance, and will include ID-activated lockers. The policy for use of the lockers as temporary storage, especially for people who live off the main campus, has yet to be finalized, Lukmann said.

An acoustically-sealed partition will divide the big room into two sections. The majority of the space will still be reserved for individual study, furnished with tables that can be converted into desks with carrels. An example desk has been sitting in the reading room for the past few months for students to preview and provide feedback.

The new group study space will include seven work rooms along the walls, surrounding a lounge. In an open session about a year ago, the CAC and a group of MIT staff “solicited student input on working in groups and brought together people who have experience with group study spaces” to get a sense of what a group study area should be like, Walsh said.

Lukmann noted the technology to be incorporated, including LCD panels for presentations and electronic white boards that allow recording and downloading of what is written.

New lighting fixtures and retractable shades will also make their debut once the renovations are complete.

“My hope is that the room will be a much brighter space than it has been in the past,” Lukmann said.

Lukmann also said that an Athena printer, and possibly a scanner, would be included.

One of the biggest challenges is the ventilation and heat in the group study area, as the large space is being divided into work rooms. Acoustic walls that do not quite reach the ceiling will solve this problem, Walsh said.

The reading room was constructed in 1965 as a resource library, and has been equipped with its original furnishings until last week when they were removed in preparation for construction.

Ceremonies to open both the reading room and the new lounge replacing the Cashier’s Office in the Infinite Corridor will be held in late August, Walsh said.