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(Jack Neal / McGill Tribune)

Library Master Plan renovations to cost McGill $180 million

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Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) University Affairs, Chloe Rourke, announced during the Oct. 1 Council meeting that the Library Master Plan, an ongoing project that aims to increase student study space on campus and make changes to the McLennan-Redpath Complex, will cost approximately $180 million to complete. The group, made up of library administrators, recently completed a feasibility study and has drafted plans for the future of the library. 

The group began developing the Library Master Plan last year. During its creation, the LIF Committee, which collects feedback from students regarding McGill libraries,  represented the student body in negotiations with the library administration. LIF Coordinator Evan Vassallo explained the co-operative relationship that the LIF has with the library administration.

“[The library administration has] worked with us to better reach out to students to get feedback, [and the LIF worked] closely with [the McGill] administration to get quotes for projects and to get an understanding of the libraries’ needs,” Vassallo said.

The master plan has yet to secure funding, and Rourke says that the project will not break ground before financial contributions have been finalized.

“The Libraries have expressed a desire to seek out multiple sources of funding in order for this plan to become a reality,” Rourke said. “My impression is that they will be actively seeking out a major donor this year in order to get the project off the ground.”

According to Rourke, another option that is being considered is to secure funding from students. 

 “There is also a possibility that they will be asking for students to contribute through a student fee submitted to referendum; however, no requests have been made at this time, nor has SSMU been presented with any specifics such as how much students would be asked to contribute,” Rourke said.

In order to better assess the needs of library users, the Library Administration commissioned a feasibility study last fall, which was completed with the help of outside architectural firms.

“[The McGill Library Administration] consulted with students and worked with architects who toured the campus thoroughly,” Vassallo said. “[They] are now producing this [Library] Master Plan, which from my understanding, is a vision of what the library will look like in the coming decades.”

Michael Moore, communications officer at McGill Libraries and Archives, explained the current state of space available to students within the library buildings. 

“Fifty-one per cent of the floor space is currently allocated to the physical collection across the library system,” Moore said. “We did a study in 2013 that found that almost 40 per cent of our print collection hadn’t been circulated in the last 20 years. Currently, there’s seating for 12 per cent of the student body, but […] if you look at the amount of square-feet for each student, it’s below optimal.” 

Rourke spoke to the aspects of the Library Master Plan design that will create more student space and maximize storage within the libraries.

“One thing that they would like to install is an underground storage system with a robotic arm that could retrieve books in a timely manner,” Rourke said. “This system is a much more efficient method of storing books and would considerably free up room for student-centred spaces.”

Colleen Cook, dean of Libraries, explained that during the proposed construction, the library will work to keep all services and collections available to students.

“[Implementation of the Library Master Plan] will happen […] in a series of phases,” Cook said. “The first thing we would do is move out collections, [which…] opens up space, and as soon as you open up space, you can maintain the services that you have.”

There will be an open forum held on Oct. 15 to present the Library Master Plan to the McGill community. Vassallo stated that the library administration is still open to student input.

“The master plan, as far as we know, is very much a conceptual plan [.… The administration] will be consulting with us and we will be ensuring that student opinion will go into [the] details [of the plan],” he said. “We feel very strongly about that and the administration is very open to our input.”

According to Cook, smaller details of the master plan have yet to be decided upon, such as what books will remain in the library’s open stacks. 

“We know that we would keep some materials in open stacks, [but] we have to work with users on deciding what those materials would be,” Cook said. “Ongoing conversations will happen until the day the [renovated space]  is moved into, and [even after that] because we’re always in communication with our users.”

This article was corrected on October 22nd. The Tribune regrets these errors.

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