How Illuminating — Summer renovations planned for library

While it might look like they’re bound for the moon, the men in white protective suits on campus this summer will actually be bound for the Albion College Stockwell-Mudd Library.

The building will be undergoing a series of renovations for roughly 14 weeks this summer that include the removal of asbestos, a carcinogen, from the ceiling of Stockwell Library and upgraded light fixtures throughout both buildings, according to John Kondelik, library director.

“(It will be) two major projects involving both buildings,” Kondelik said. “We’re going to be doing asbestos abasement because, in the big rooms, the ceilings all have asbestos in the plaster that was applied.

“The other project is in Seeley-Mudd,” Kondelik continued.  “We will be relighting the entire building. That should vastly improve the lighting, since that’s one of the major criticisms we’ve had. We’ll walk into Mudd and say, ‘Oh my word, we can see!’”

Asbestos is not harmful until it is friable — meaning that it has been released into the air and can be inhaled. The asbestos abatement will be a three-step process: an initial assessment by a staff member who is certified in asbestos abatement; an industrial hygienist who monitors air quality; and an independent contractor who  will perform the actual removal, according to Ken Kolmodin, associate vice president for facilities operations.

The abatement process had already been performed in Room 110 in Stockwell Library after a lighting fixture collapsed several years ago, creating a hole in the ceiling and releasing asbestos into the air.

“Asbestos hasn’t been used since the 1980s,” Kolmodin said. “We’ve had a pretty active program of asbestos abasement, but that’s not to say there isn’t any. Most of what remains is in areas that aren’t accessible to the public.”

The estimated cost of the project is $946,000. Kondelik explained that the project will be paid for through the college’s plant fund, which is funded through depreciation, “an income tax deduction that allows a taxpayer to recover the cost or other basis of certain property,” according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The fund is used to maintain buildings and is separate from the college’s annual operating budget, according to Kondelik.

Despite the construction, the library will remain open for the entire summer, although some services will be temporarily relocated or rearranged.

“The periodical room will be moved over to Mudd somewhere on the main floor,” Kondelik said. “The offices will be moved over to the other side. Access to the collections — we’ll have to retrieve things for people. We’ll probably have to go around, outside, and in the back door. It will affect people. But the gain is so fantastic that it’s worth that loss.”

After the upcoming renovations, Kondelik’s focus will be on transforming the library as part of the college’s 20-year Master Plan.

“The basic concept that we are moving towards is something called the Learning Commons,” Kondelik said. “We will tie together all of the different student services.  We hope there will be a center for teaching and learning for faculty. It will be a close collaboration between IT, the teaching center, FURSCA and the academic skills center, mainly in the Mudd building.”

Structural renovations will also be included, and the college is currently searching for an architect to create more a more definite plan. The estimated cost is between $20 and $30 million, which will be raised from individual donors. Ideally, the money will be raised and the plans finalized over a 5-year period of time, according to Kondelik.

“The college library is old, sad, and tired,” said Scott Hendrix, director of the Writing Center and professor of English.  “I really love this place–come to work here everyday, and enjoy the quiet, private spaces as well as the public, noisy spaces. But I’d really love coming to a workplace that drew lots of other people here: to work, to learn, to teach, to visit, to laugh, to sip strong coffee, or all of these at once. This could happen with a learning commons in the Library. If we do it right.”

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