Yesterday, Brandan Nigro held an open forum to discuss the Alderman Library renovations. The plans have been met with outcries of both support and strong disapproval.
As the student member of the UVA Board of Visitors, Nigro represents the student perspective on projects overseen by the BOV. Nigro himself does not have a vote on the Board. This allows him to be an advocate for all student perspectives without having to pick a side.
At yesterday’s meeting, Nigro detailed both responses to the proposed renovations. Some students and faculty members are strongly against the plans, which include getting rid of the beloved Stacks, decreasing shelf space, and closing the building for a few years. Others see the changes as a necessary and exciting step into the future for UVA. The changes promise more outlets, group meeting spaces, natural light, and patio space.
A petition that is strongly against the renovations went viral among the UVA community. As mentioned in Monday’s episode of WUVA NOW, the petition criticized UVA’s statement that there could be up to a 70% reduction in shelf space.
Nigro clarified, however, that although total shelving will decrease, the same amount of available print would continue to be available between Clemons and Alderman libraries. It is expected that Clemons will take in more books in order to make up for Alderman’s loss of shelf space.
In a Facebook post, Nigro emphasized the need for Alderman to become a safer and more inclusive space. The building has suffered from multiple floods and is at a huge risk for fire. There is no sprinkler system and the electrical systems date back to 1938. Furthermore, the cramped Stacks are not handicap accessible. These plans have been in the works for over a decade.
Nigro explained the Board hopes to “create a library to meet the needs of today’s students and researchers while improving the safety and systems of the facility.”
But, there seem to be two major reasons for student and professor pushback on the renovations. The first is the sentimental attachment to “Aldy.” Many students see Alderman as a cozier, quieter option to Clem. Despite chipped paint and a lack of outlets, the Stacks are an important study space to generations of Hoos. Although the renovations would keep the McGregor Room and Scholars’ Lab, all the Stacks would be removed.
The second issue with the plans is the huge loss of student study space during the renovation. Depending on whether the Board selects the three year or the five year renovation plan, either all of Alderman or a substantial part of it will be closed to students. This poses a problem, considering that it is already very difficult to find library space during finals week.
Tomorrow at 1:30pm in the Rotunda Board Room, the renovation proposal is coming before the Board of Visitors. It is an open meeting, so any students or community members can attend. The meeting is not for approval but for “schematic review.” So the Board will be suggesting alterations to the plan before final approval in September.