Beginning this year, students can look forward to the highly anticipated renovation of Alderman Library, the University of Virginia’s main library. The renovation, which was announced in 2017, is intended to both modernize and renew the building for future generations of students and staff.
Opened first to the public in 1938, Alderman Library is the largest library on Grounds and acts as an important space for quiet study, group work, and social interaction. Students and faculty alike use the various spaces throughout the building for a variety of purposes.
In recent years, however, the building has begun to show its age. Some of the systems in the library, such as the plumbing and wiring, are original to Alderman’s construction and require replacement. Furthermore, there is no fire suppression in the building, putting the collections and their patrons at risk.
According to the UVa Library website, the Alderman Library renovation is “essential to bringing the Library up to contemporary standards of safety, accessibility, usability, and service,” as well as providing “an opportunity for us to create the library for this University’s third century.”
Over the next several years, planners expect to replace its stacks and bring open study spaces and plentiful seating to Alderman, while preserving notable architectural features like its large windows and high ceilings. New construction will also bring an entrance onto University Avenue, a feature intended to increase the Library’s overall accessibility.
Despite the necessity of some of the aspects of the renovation, there has been a degree of pushback from the community with regard to the planned changes. For fourth-year student Carrie West, a self-described “Alderman person,” the Library has been a “home base” of sorts throughout her years at the University.
“Based on what I know of the renovations, it is hard to oppose the proposed infrastructural changes to the library,” says West, but she hopes that certain elements “remain the same, or go as unchanged as possible, including study spaces like the Current Journals and McGregor Rooms, as well as the well-traveled café area.”
Although the renovation process is still in its planning stages, the first phase of the endeavor, which requires demolishing the Old and New Stacks, is set to begin in 2020. In anticipation of this demolition, the library is temporarily moving some of its collection to the Ivy Stacks building on Old Ivy Road.
West hopes that the physical books will remain readily accessible to students in the Library, and that the existing vibe of Alderman Library endures without turning the Library into “just another Clemons.”
“The history of the University permeates through and in between the walls of Alderman, and I find that much of its unique charm and character comes in part from its dated, perhaps outmoded, nature.”
As the specifics of the Alderman renovations continue to develop, the architect and planning committees associated with the project have recently announced that they will be holding open sessions in February to hear from students, faculty, staff, and the Charlottesville community for their input on the future of the Library.
For more information on the times and locations of these sessions, please visit https://news.library.virginia.edu/2018/01/25/architect-and-planning-committees-seek-public-comment-on-future-of-renovated-alderman-library/