The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY MONICA VAUGHAN

Kennedy Li­brary at Cal Poly SLO will close in 2022 for ren­o­va­tions that could in­clude a “read­ing room in the sky.”

A plan to rein­vent Cal Poly’s Robert E. Kennedy Li­brary is in the works, to expand gath­er­ing spa­ces, trans­form the out­door court­yard and, if donors come through, cre­ate a “read­ing room in the sky.”

When that work will be­gin has been the sub­ject of spec­u­la­tion and ru­mors among cur­rent and prospec­tive stu­dents, who have heard the li­brary will shut down for two years for re­mod­el­ing be­gin­ning in the next aca­demic year.

That’s not the case, ac­cord­ing to univer­sity Pres­i­dent Jeffrey Arm­strong, who spoke with The Tribune about the pro­ject in early April.

“We be­lieve the ear­li­est that we would have the se­ri­ous de­sign and con­struc­tion draw­ings done to start con­struc­tion and have stu­dents va­cate the build­ing would be Jan­uary of 2022,” Arm­strong said. “That would be the ear­li­est.”

Univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors have dis­cussed the need to ren­o­vate the Kennedy Li­brary since Arm­strong ar­rived on cam­pus in 2011, he said.

The ini­tial de­sign of the pro­ject sets the price tag for ren­o­va­tions at $65 mil­lion, of which 90 per­cent would come from the Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity sys­tem bud­get with the re­main­ing 10 per­cent from Cal Poly’s bud­get and from donors.

Fundrais­ing has al­ready be­gun. More se­ri­ous cam­paign­ing will likely launch in Jan­uary 2020 af­ter Cal Poly ex­pects to be awarded funds from CSU, Arm­strong said.

“The li­brary’s use has in­creased dramatically and changed dramatically,” Arm­strong said. “(That’s) largely be­cause of dig­i­tal availability and de­mand of stu­dents. The li­brary is still the li­brary, but it’s much more a place of col­lab­o­ra­tion and con­gre­ga­tion.”

“It’s really vi­brant,” he said.

The Kennedy Li­brary has seen small changes since the cur­rent build­ing opened in 1980 at a cost of $11 mil­lion. New elec­tri­cal out­lets were added in re­sponse to stu­dent de­mand, a cof­fee shop opened in­side, and there’s now a space for study­ing that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The shift away from a quiet place to read to a desti­na­tion for stu­dent pro­ject work and meet­ing space is re­flected in the new de­sign that can be seen on a site ded­i­cated to in­for­ma­tion about the ren­o­va­tion at ren­o­va­

The new li­brary de­sign will in­crease seat­ing from 2,400 to 3,500 seats, and in­crease user space by 52 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the pro­ject web­site.

High­lights of the new de­sign in­clude a global gallery space to present stu­dent work and a glass ceil­ing to cover the ex­ist­ing in­te­rior court­yard, cre­at­ing year-round seat­ing in a new atrium.

It’s hot in­side the li­brary dur­ing the fall and spring months, some­thing that Arm­strong said will also be fixed with the build­ing up­dates.

In the mean­time, stu­dents have ex­pressed anxiety about a po­ten­tial clo­sure af­fect­ing their abil­ity to study in soli­tude and have enough meet­ing space.

“Imag­ine,” posed a Mus­tang News edi­to­rial pub­lished Feb. 21, hun­dreds of stu­dents “oc­cu­py­ing ev­ery lawn, class­room, ta­ble, dry seg­ment of con­crete step, and chair with arm­rests on cam­pus for two years.”

In re­sponse, Arm­strong said, “I’m not pre­pared to close the li­brary, un­less we have ad­e­quate re­place­ment space.”

Right now, he is eye­ing Cran­dell Gym­na­sium for that role.

That build­ing was closed af­ter it was dam­aged in an earth­quake in 2003. It has since been up­dated to be seis­mi­cally safe, but has not yet been ren­o­vated for use. By the time the univer­sity is ready for li­brary ren­o­va­tions, the gym will be ren­o­vated to serve as over­flow space, Arm­strong said.

The cam­pus will also have the new $123 mil­lion Sci­ence and Agri­cul­ture Teach­ing and Re­search Com­plex open by fall 2021, which has a lot of col­lab­o­ra­tion space, Arm­strong said.

While the base con­cept de­sign for ren­o­va­tions is ex­pected to cost $65 mil­lion, it could be up to an $85 mil­lion pro­ject if donors come for­ward to fund ad­di­tional as­pects, such as a read­ing room span­ning the li­brary’s fourth and fifth floors with dou­ble­height win­dow views of Bishop Peak.

“That’s an ex­am­ple of as­pect of pro­ject that prob­a­bly won’t oc­cur un­less donors step up,” Arm­strong said. “We’re com­mit­ted to meet the needs and to en­hance the li­brary with ren­o­va­tions. But to go the ex­tra mile, we need our donors to sup­port us.”

“That’s a good re­flec­tion of our bud­get in gen­eral: The state pro­vides sup­port for our stu­dents, the stu­dents pro­vide sup­port through fees and tu­ition they pay,” he said. “But really, it’s the donors, the sup­port we get from com­pa­nies and foundations that help us take things that ex­tra mile.”

JOE JOHN­STON jjohn­[email protected]­bune­

The Kennedy Li­brary opened in 1980.

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