Admin considers Harper late night study space

By Connie Hsiung

Plans to convert Harper Library’s Stuart and Harper reading rooms into all-night study spaces may one day give Burton-Judson residents and those in the new dorm behind it a closer late-night alternative to the Regenstein Library’s A-Level or Crerar Library’s late-night study area.

This development is yet another addition to the long list of planned and current construction projects on the U of C campus, expanding the University’s presence south of the Midway to accommodate the growing student population there. “Especially with the new dorm going up in 2009, the concern is going to be those students,” said Asahi Hayden, a staff member at Harper Library.

Currently, neither a start date nor an end date has been set for the project. Meghan Hammond, who works in the office of the vice president and dean of students in the University, said in a telephone interview that “nothing’s confirmed or definite yet,” but that “it certainly is a goal.”

Several library administrators knew little about the planned Harper renovations. “They haven’t been telling us much,” Hayden said.

Dean of the College John Boyer explained in a telephone interview that “the college received a grant for a feasibility study, but that study is still incomplete.” Dean Boyer added that fund estimates will have to wait until the feasibility study is complete.

Two meetings concerning the renovations were held in the past year, one in the spring and the other in the summer. Student Government representatives attended, as did University administrators, including Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life, and Susan Art, dean of students in the College.

Only preliminary discussion took place during the first meeting in the spring. Architects joined the second meeting and showcased sketches.

Possible renovations include structural changes, such as sound improvement in Harper Reading Room, better lighting, and the installation of more electrical outlets.

The University has recently moved to improve outlet accessibility in other study spaces, including the Reynolds Club and Regenstein Library, as laptop computers have become a more ubiquitous part of campus life.

The architects sought to preserve the classic Gothic style of Harper Reading Room but chose for Stuart a more modern style to match the existing cubicles. Plans also include pushing the cubicles back into the room in order to open up the space, according to Matt Kennedy, vice president for student affairs. There was even talk of converting a part of what is currently the circulation desk into a small café.

A proposed all-night diner and study space in the new dorm being constructed behind Burton-Judson was dramatically scaled back as part of cost-cutting measures last quarter.

“Those are beautiful spaces up there,” Dean Boyer said in a phone interview, citing concerns that Harper’s space isn’t awarded the attention some feel it deserves. “And yet when you go up there at night, it’s a ghost town.”

Jim Vaughan, assistant director for access and facilities for the U of C libraries, added, “The desire is to make this a real destination for students.”