From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
A $50.8 million expansion of Virginia Commonwealth University’s main library is underway, marking the opening stages of the library’s first major improvement since it was built in the early 1970s.
As part of the expansion project, a new 93,000-square-foot library building will be built and connected to the north and east sides of the existing James Branch Cabell Library and an additional 63,000 square feet of the current library building will be renovated.
“We are overcrowded, there’s not any other way to say it,” said University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider. “Students complain that they can’t find a place to sit. The new building that we’re creating will expand the space by over 30 percent. We’ll add significant new seating capacity and we’ll bring on the new kinds of new capabilities that our students and faculty have been asking us for.”
Since the library was first built, Ulmschneider said, VCU’s enrollment has grown by more than 10,000 students yet additional capacity was not added to the library.
VCU currently provides the least amount of square feet per student of any academic library in Virginia, yet has the highest amount of traffic, Ulmschneider said. Over the past 10 years, Cabell Library’s traffic has more than doubled from 1 million visitors in 2003 to more than 2 million in 2013.
The expanded library will add a number of new services and capabilities aimed at students.
On the first ground floor of the new building, a new Innovative Media Studio will offer students access to high-end computing, a green-screen studio, audio and video recording and editing equipment, 3-D printing and data visualization.
The Innovative Media Studio also will include an immersive data visualization facility, allowing for the display of wraparound, large-form video.
Also as part of the project, the library will expand its special collections area on the fourth floor over the summer.
“Special collections is going to get a larger footprint out of this renovation, some better processing space behind the scenes for staff, and a much larger and more secure stacks area, which will have compact shelving so the capacity will be much larger in terms of materials,” said Jeanne Hammer, associate university librarian for administration and policy development and a key liaison on the building program.
The project will also add two dedicated classrooms and a significant amount of additional seating for students.