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University of Illinois planning $54M library overhaul

October 6, 2018

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois officials plan spending $54 million to modernize and restructure the Urbana-Champaign campus’ library.

The plan would replace older portions of the Main Library with a new interdisciplinary liberal arts center, The News-Gazette reported . It would also move undergraduate student services into the Main Library and relocate the University Archives and special collections into the Undergraduate Library.

The Main Library holds 14 million volumes and is the country’s second-largest academic library, behind Harvard. It was originally built in 1924.

The plan will update the library, consolidate special collections and improve student services, University Librarian John Wilkin said. Officials hope to complete the project by 2024.

“I think this is a tremendous vision that’s aligned with who we are as a library and Illinois,” Wilkin said. “But change raises questions. Articulating it clearly and often is going to be very necessary.”

Some researchers are concerned that the changes will limit their ability to find research materials.

Materials will still be accessible even if they’re relocated or placed in storage, Wilkin said.

History Department chairwoman Clare Crowston and other professors said they are waiting to hear more details about the overhaul plan.

“What a lot of people will tell you is that there’s a kind of serendipity,” Crowston said. “You go into the stacks looking for one thing, which you’re sure you need, and because of the way the library is cataloged, there you are in the collection with all the books about that subject. You make all kinds of connections and discoveries that you can’t make just sitting there with the catalog.”

The university’s special collections will also be housed in facilities with improved climate control, security and conservation, though the university will need to raise additional money for climate control improvements because they’re not included in the project’s budget, Wilkin said.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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