The MIT administration said it is in the early stages of planning major renovations of campus libraries, including Hayden (humanities and sciences), Barker (engineering), and Rotch (architecture and planning). Organizers have not yet decided specific details of the project, and are encouraging input from the community.
The multi-year, multi-million-dollar renovations will likely include reorganizations of Hayden and Barker libraries and structural changes to Rotch, according to Jeffrey Ravel, Chair of the Faculty Committee on the Library System, and Steven Gass, interim director of libraries. The project aims to make library spaces more useful for students and staff, and to improve the buildings’ infrastructure.
According to Ravel and Gass, the centerpiece of the changes will be a redesign of Hayden Library. Spaces for both individual and group study, as well as classrooms, will be modified and expanded to better fit students’ and instructors’ needs. In order to facilitate interdisciplinary research, the engineering resources collection and the Geographic Information Systems laboratory in Building 7 might be moved to join the science resources already in Hayden. A cafe might be also added to “make this library more of a destination space,” said Ravel.
Meanwhile, smaller-scale changes are planned for other library areas.
Barker Library will likely be emptied of traditional library materials to become a 24/7 study space, inspired by the success of a recent renovation of its reading room, according to an article published by Ravel and Gass in the most recent MIT faculty newsletter.
Improvements to Rotch Library will include added group study spaces, structural changes to fix noise issues, and reorganization to make the limited-access collection easier to use.
Planners hope to take advantage of these programmatic changes to also make physical repairs. Richards said that the chief areas of concern are accessibility, facilities, and mechanical and electrical systems. Gass added that Hayden is “over 60 years old, and there’s been no major infrastructure renewal.”
Planning for the renovations began with a phase one report, produced in 2012, which provided general proposals for a restructuring of MIT’s library system. MIT’s chief space-planning body, the Committee for Renovation and Space Planning (CRSP), launched phase two last fall. This stage of the project will focus on producing specific plans and securing sufficient funding for the renovations.
The renovation process does not yet have a set timeline. “I think it would be fair to say it’s going to happen over multiple years,” said Gass. However, organizers are planning on “probably keeping an active building at the same time,” according to Sonia Richards, program manager for Capital Projects Group, the body responsible for planning large-scale campus renovations.
The renovations’ funding sources are similarly unclear. Currently, funds are promised from CRSP and from MIT 2030, the Institute’s long-term planning initiative. Organizers are also seeking additional funding from the upcoming MIT capital campaign. The cost of the project, while still uncertain, will be sizeable. “I think it’s in the tens of millions of dollars, but being more specific than that would not be fair or accurate at this point in time,” said Gass.
Very few plans are set in stone, and the renovations’ organizers are seeking input from the MIT community. Gass said, “To date, there has not been enough student engagement.” A triennial library survey is scheduled for November. The survey will allow students, staff, and faculty to voice their opinions. Organizers are also planning to publicize the renovations through a website (launched this week at https://libraries.mit.edu/future-spaces/), blogs, Twitter, and posters. Gass also stated there will be several focused sessions where students can discuss their views with the project’s planners and architects.
Matthew J. Davis ’16 is one of two undergraduate students on the Committee on the Library Systems, which also includes two graduate students. Davis wrote by email that he is “very excited to see the tremendous impact that the renovations will have on the quality of our community’s scholarship and cohesiveness.” Davis plans to gather feedback and keep students informed about the progress of the renovations through mailing lists, student meetings, and personal connections.
Most students interviewed were not aware of the planned renovations. Sophie A. Geoghan ’16, a library regular, had not heard about the plans, but supported many of the suggested renovations. “I like the idea of a [Hayden] cafe as long as it’s kind of hidden,” she said. Regarding the removal of books from Barker, she commented, “I’ve never used Barker as a library, only as a study space, so I think that would be fine.” As for the renovations’ effects on her day-to-day life, Geoghan said, “it would probably be annoying for a few years… but there’s so many options for where to study that I think they can renovate without shutting down all the areas to study in.”
Ryuga Hatano ’18 also did not know about the planned renovations, but disagreed that they would be worthwhile. “It would probably be very disruptive… there’s enough construction going on already,” he explained. “I find the spaces adequate to my needs.”