Renovated UNK library will serve as a hub for student success and support

Local4 News at 11:30
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:15 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - As work progresses at Calvin T. Ryan Library, the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s vision for this valuable campus resource is beginning to take shape.

It may be surrounded by construction fence right now, but soon the building will be more accessible and welcoming than ever.

“When this project is complete, my hope is that people will come into the building and want to spend time here,” said Evan Boyd, dean of the library. “It’s exciting to think about how we’re going to be able to work together to better serve students, faculty and staff.”

Started in late 2022, the renovation is part of a plan to modernize Calvin T. Ryan Library and enhance its role on campus. The $25 million project includes a number of significant changes that will improve the layout, appearance and functionality of the nearly 100,000-square-foot building.

All three floors are being redesigned to create an inviting and engaging environment with better access to library resources and services. Modern staff work areas and welcome desks will make it easier for patrons to receive assistance, and an open design will help connect people and spaces.

A priority during the planning process, the updated library will feature more individual and group study/lounge spaces, technology labs and a lecture hall that can host campus and community events. New furniture and artwork will be added throughout the 60-year-old building, and upgraded lighting, flooring, paint, ceilings, restrooms, HVAC systems and IT infrastructure will extend its useful life and improve energy efficiency.

Both library entrances will be replaced, making them more accessible and visually appealing, and there will no longer be a divide between the library and UNK Department of Communication. The multimedia labs, classrooms and offices will be updated with new layouts and technology.

The upgraded entrances at UNK’s Calvin T. Ryan Library will be more accessible and visually...
The upgraded entrances at UNK’s Calvin T. Ryan Library will be more accessible and visually appealing. A $25 million renovation of UNK’s Calvin T. Ryan Library will improve the building’s layout, appearance and functionality.(press release)

The second floor will serve as a hub for student success and support services, with expanded space for the Learning Commons, Writing Center and Peer Tutoring and new space for the Academic Success Offices and Academic Advising and Career Development. The alignment with offices and collaboration space for the Honors Program and Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity will create a welcoming environment with expanded hours for student interaction.

To make room for those additions, the library reduced its physical book collection by about 30%, eliminating outdated resources that are no longer useful to students or faculty.

“We want to be a stronger academic partner, and this allows us to better support all aspects of a student’s learning experience,” Boyd said. “By bringing our academic support services together in a single location, we can work with each other much more easily while helping students complete their degrees.”

Also on the second floor, the archives and special collections will feature isolated climate control and fire suppression with a secure reading room for researchers utilizing these resources.

The Learning Commons, several offices and much of the Communication Department have been located in space across campus, including the University Residences (North and South). The library collection is currently in the basement, but those books and some staff offices will move to the second floor next month so construction can start on the lower level. Around mid-November, employees who work on the east side of the main floor will shift to the west end, and the library’s new west entrance will open.

Currently, the library can be accessed using a temporary entrance on the building’s north side. The entire renovation is expected to be complete in summer 2024.

“We know it can be challenging for students and faculty to use our facility during the construction process, but we’re trying our best to make it as welcoming a space as it can be,” Boyd said. “In the end, we know these changes will allow Calvin T. Ryan Library to continue serving our campus and community in the best way possible.”

A priority project for UNK Student Government for several years, the library renovation is funded through a state-university partnership that addresses deferred maintenance across the NU System.