February 23, 2004

Fourth-floor shelves make moving debut in Woodruff Library

By Eric Rangus

Nine months after it closed last summer, the newly renovated fourth floor of Woodruff Library reopened Wednesday, Feb. 18, with a ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of new compact shelving and the completion of what could be the first step toward a transformed library.

For the "Extreme Makeover" open house from 3:30-5 p.m., library staff gave informal tours of the stacks, demonstrated how to use them and answered visitor questions.

"This effort was absolutely the best example of teamwork I can think of," said Vice Provost and Director of University Libraries Linda Matthews, just before she cut the ribbon with Charles Forrest, director of the Library Facilities Planning Office, and Project Manager Al Herzog.

Following more than 50 meetings over two years that included representatives from--among others--the libraries, Facilities Management, project architect Rosser International, general contractor Schoppman Freese and shelving contractor Walter H. Hopkins Co., the opening of the fourth floor offered a glimpse of what a future library may hold--one that is literally brighter.

Improved light fixtures and the khaki-colored shelves shine not only with newness, but the lighter shades provide a stark contrast to the dim lights, grim blacks and harsh yellows on the other floors in the tower.

In addition to the new shelving, the floor has been carpeted, study carrels repainted and re-equipped with new chairs, and a sprinkler system installed. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant carrels and an ADA-compliant restroom soon will follow, all for the relatively low cost of $2 million.

The sprinkler system alone, Forrest said, was a big money saver in terms of insurance costs. The fourth floor now is the only floor in the tower with sprinklers; if the floors above are renovated, they would be added there as well.

Gone are the generic offices and classroom spaces on the west end of the floor, and in their place is a lounge area complete with a view of Baker Woodland. Some office space remains along the floor's corners.

Key to the renovation was the removal of the tile floor, which contained asbestos. That allowed further work which led to a more extensive renovation without adding much more cost.

"I'd glad we had the opportunity to enhance the rest of the floor and create a format that is a good template from this point forward," said FM's Herzog.

Moving forward, though, depends on a couple factors. Money, for one: Adding movable shelving to tower floors five though nine has not been budgeted. Time is a concern as well. Installation of shelving on another floor would not begin before 2006, so the time line to renovate the entire tower would be a long one.

But it could be very beneficial. "If we renovated all the floors in the tower, we could increase the library's capacity from 1.2 million volumes to 1.8 million volumes without adding a brick," Forrest said. He added that shelving technology provides a long-term solution, and the system becoming obsolete was not a concern.

Other shelving and other floors, though, were talk for other days.

The new fourth-floor shelving was the star of the afternoon. With its installation, the capacity of the floor increased by 50 percent, and much of that was filled in time for the open house with books transferred from the upper floors (new capacity was desperately needed as some books were "shelved" on study carrels. As part of the ceremony, Matthews herself shelved the last book–Solar System Voyage by Serge Brunier (call number: QB501.B7913 2002).

Although compact shelving is not new to Emory–Woodruff's documents collection and the Music and Media Library have it--the fourth floor is by far the largest campus example and people took their time trying it out. Visitors and library staffers alike took turns weaving through the shelves, which move with the push of a button.

Sensors can read if a browser is in the stacks; if a beam is broken, the shelf will stop moving. Visitors tried to beat the system ("If I put my hand here, what will happen?"), and the shelves worked every time.

The Feb. 18 open house was the formal reopening of the floor. It actually returned to use on Feb. 9. The materials, which are primarily books on science and technology, had been stored at the Material Center. To get them, users had to take the shuttle down Clifton Road or fill out a form to have the book delivered. Students were clearly ready for things to return to normal.

"They were lined up at 8 a.m. to get in," said Nancy Books, editor for University Libraries publications.