Pius XII enhancement nearing completion

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As students struggled through the caution tape festival that was the Pius XII Memorial Library for the past six months, there was anticipation in the air for newer and improved library facilities.

That anticipation has dissipated and has been replaced by discovery.   Discovery, that is, of the new, refreshed look of Pius.  The improvements include new lighting, flooring and carpeting, doubling of the seating capacity, added study and seminar rooms as well as an entirely new entrance.

“All of our priorities were met and more,” Matt Ryan, former Student Government Association President, said. “I think it looks amazing.”

According to David Cassens, interim university librarian, in addition to the aforementioned improvements, there are now exponentially more electrical outlets, an improved printing station, new ceilings and old drapes were replaced by UV-protected film on the windows to allow more natural light into the building.

“Student comfort level was a major priority of ours,” Cassens said. “When students can become comfortable and safe in a learning environment is when they become the most effective; we modeled this renovation off of the students.”

According to Ryan, the idea of a library renovation originated with the SGA administration prior to his, that of Courtney Anvender’s. From that point, the torch was passed from Avender to Ryan.  The official planning began in January of 2011 and from that point there were weekly progress reviews that included Cassens, SGA and the facilities department of SLU.  According to Cassens, one of the major holdups to the project was amount of time that the library would be out of commission.

“We had to consider how we could make these changes while, at the same time, making sure the library was not closed for an extended period of time,” Cassens said.  “We made it through this time period by having a tremendous group of librarians, and now we have a new modern facility. It is rewarding for us all.”

According to Cassens, the project took about six months from the beginning of construction to the opening.  The cost came under budget, between $2.5 to $2.7 million. Most of the issues that students had with the facility have been improved to a great degree.

“There are a few issues that have yet to be addressed, such as circulation,” Cassens said.  “We hope to correct that and other issues in an anticipated second phase to the library renovation project.”

Cassens said there was no timetable for a second phase as of yet.

“In relation to last year, there is no doubt that the library, this year, is much improved, from the color scheme to the furniture layout to the comfort level,” Jonathon Kenzig, senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said.  “The library has totally improved.”

Cassens said most of the feedback that he has received on phase one, so far, from the faculty and students has been positive.

“The workspaces are nicer and more conveinient,” Daniel El-Zein, sophomore in the School of Medicine, said. “Plus, there is an entirely new entrance which makes it really nice.”

Ryan said that the accomplishment was due, in large part, to students themselves.

“The major influence, by far, was the student push to make this a reality,” Ryan said. “Students were part of the process all the way through. Significant student participation, first, made the project possible and continued all the way through to what specific furniture was chosen.”

Ryan said that President Biondi, S.J. deserved a lot of credit as well. He listened to the SGA throughout the whole process.

“He was determined to satisfy students’ concerns. I think this project is a testament to what can happen when students work together with administrators,” Ryan said.

According to Cassens, this entire project will have a direct impact on student recruitment and retention.  The library will be open later than any other location on campus.

“We now have a safe, comfortable, updated environment for a library,” Cassens said. “Everyone is excited.”

Though as Samuel Johnson said, “Such is the state of life, that none are happy but by the anticipation of change; the change itself is nothing; when we have made it, the next wish is to change again.”

Students will begin asking, when will phase two begin?