Library braces for retrofitting
September 26, 2008 5:01 PM
For long-time employees weathering the library renovation, change is a force of nature.
“It’s kind of like you’re watching this tidal wave come on top of you,” said Librarian LaVonne Jacobsen of the $121 million, three-year renovation project.
“The way to survive it,” explained the 35-year library veteran, “is to surf over it.”
Jacobsen said she hopes the SF State community understands the library’s need to renovate. “There are going to be inconveniences that are beyond our control,” Jacobsen said.
Part of that need to renovate stems from a more literal force of nature – earthquakes.
Completion of the project is meant to bring the 1950s-era building into compliance with current seismic building codes. The library’s history might argue the importance of those codes.
SF State’s first library opened in 1901 on Powell Street, only to be reduced to charred rubble five years later in the massive fire sparked by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
At its current location off of 19th Avenue, two major earthquakes shook the J. Paul Leonard Library. Most notable was the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, which destroyed much of the building’s shelving, said Meredith Eliassen, a reference specialist at the library.
But Eliassen sees the renovation in terms of a different natural process.
“Right now we are in a little cocoon, and we’re bursting out,” said Eliassen, who started working at the library as a student in 1986. “We’re a butterfly, we need to transform and come out of our cocoon. Right now were stymied by this 50-year-old building.”
Darlene Tong, who has worked at the library since 1976, said the construction project has been a long time coming.
Planning for the renovation started back in 2000, but setbacks such as the rise in cost of construction materials prolonged the project. The renovation didn’t begin until 2008, said Tong, who is head of the library’s information, research and instructional services.
“Things got placed on hold, and we tried to get more money in various ways. We did succeed in getting a $21 million augmentation around 2006, but we lost a lot of time,” Tong said.
The library building will close to students at the end of October. Books and media will be available for order online and pickup in the HSS building. Computer access and study space will find temporary housing at Library Annex I on North State Drive near the Lot 20 parking garage.
The renovation will provide more computers, extra study space, and more storage for a stunted book collection that needs room to grow, Eliassen said.
“I’m daunted by the changes that will take place in the next few months,” she said.
“But I’m also excited that finally we will have a library that is worthy of the university, because this is an infrastructure we’ve been just holding together with Band-Aids.”
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