A wasteland of dirt, fencing and machinery fills the former grassy lot between Jennings Hall and the Student Union Building.
In September, steel will start to go up and show the superstructure of the new library, University President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said .
“New construction is already exciting, particularly on a college campus,” Oliver said. “And this building is just going to be really beautiful.”
The targeted completion date is Oct. 31, 2015.
Gary Carter, senior vice president for Business Services, said while construction is dependent on weather, the contractors are “confident” they can make the completion date.
H&M Company is the contractor for the library. The Jackson-based construction group previously built White Hall and Providence Hall for Union.
Overall, the building schematics have changed little since the initial plans in 2011, Carter said.
The building will still have a dome exterior and a glass elevator inside.
Initially, the interior of the building was intended to be open from the floor level to the top of the dome. This would have resulted in losing 7,000 square feet, Carter said. Because of the need for more space, plans were altered to fill the floors in the second and third level to create more study rooms and book stacks.
A coffee shop similar to Barefoots Joe will be included, Carter said.
Although there have been discussions about students using meal cards at such a café sometime in the future, Carter said this is not likely.
“For us to be able to use the meal plan card, we would actually have to bring [the café] under Aramark’s umbrella, and I don’t think we’re willing to do that at this time,” Carter said.
There will be a suite for the president and his staff in addition to office space for library personnel, Carter said. There had been talks about creating a library basement to house Information Technology, but the project was not pursued due to high costs.
A landscaped park with seating, walks and a circle drive will be included on the north side of the building.
Although the fencing currently takes up between 40-60 parking spots, mostly from the Jennings lot, Carter said those spots will be reclaimed at the end of the construction. The parking spots are fenced off to create areas to lay down building materials, for subcontractors to place construction trailers and for construction workers to park. Carter said students, faculty and staff are not allowed inside the fenced area for safety and insurance reasons.
Plans are not solidified for the old library space, although Carter said there will be definite plans before the library is moved.
“It’s exciting to see the first initial stages of a grand building project occurring after having been involved in the planning stages for a number of years,” said Anna Beth Morgan, associate vice president for Academic Resources and director of the library. “I think our students, faculty and staff, all of them will have a lot of enhanced opportunities to use the library.”
Oliver said starting the construction on the library was a priority for the early days of his presidency. Oliver said over the summer, a student skeptically told him, “There’s a rumor we’re going to build a library.”
Oliver told the student that yes, there would be a library in place by October 2015.
The library will be 140 feet and eight inches from its base to the cross at the top of the dome, Oliver said — easily the largest building on campus. In contrast, the clock tower is only 110 feet tall from its base to the top of the lightning rod.
The Latimer Foundation committed half the library’s total cost, up to $11.5 million, while around 700 others and nearly 500 students have also donated, according to Union’s website.
“I hope it will be an encouragement day by day,” Oliver said of the construction. “One of the things I ask people to do is to pray for the people who are working on [construction]. We sometimes don’t see the people who are serving. But just pray for their safety, pray even as they live out their calling as builders that they would feel God’s pleasure in doing their work.”