Students noticed a significant change when they entered Swem Library in the fall. The popular study area on the first floor, Read & Relax, has been expanded to provide an additional 5,000 square feet of study space.
The newly repurposed area, which doubles the size of Read & Relax, will provide ample study space for students, even under current physical distancing guidelines.
“We de-densified all of our seating to provide at least a 6-foot distance between people,” said Lisa Nickel, associate dean of research and public services. "This project allowed us to maintain the same number of seats, just spread over a larger area.”
The project kicked into high gear this summer as library staff worked to de-densify Swem before the building reopened to the campus community in mid-August. Expanding the largest open study area in the library required relocating the government documents collection.
“More than a year ago, we identified the print government documents area as a collection that needed space management,” said Laura Morales, interim associate dean for collections and content services. “Many government documents are now available in digital format, which many users prefer. We made sure to retain and move the materials that are unique, have local and regional importance, and those important to our curriculum and research. Space is at a premium in Swem Library, and we knew we could use that area for other pressing needs.”
Although the plans to move the collection had been in place for the past year, the pandemic sped up the process to make it happen.
“We mapped out plans for moving the government document shelves before COVID,” Morales said. “However, the pandemic created a sense of urgency to speed up the project in order to de-densify the building. Swem Library is such an important physical location and we want to provide plenty of room for users to spread out.”
The process was coordinated by Elizabeth McDaniel, head of cataloging and metadata. She partnered with research librarians to shrink the government documents into a browsable collection, which is now located on the second floor.
McDaniel said the librarians helped her identify documents of high interest to faculty and students. She also retained publications that supported diversity and inclusion research.
“I think moving the collection to the second floor will make it more inviting to researchers,” McDaniels said. “It will be shelved near the rest of our collections, and it's easier to explore a collection on traditional shelving - not the tall, high-density shelves that require a ladder.”
With the compact shelving removed from the first floor, the area can now serve as a hub of learning and study. The area is now filled with chairs, work desks, a few shelves filled with popular books and study carrels. The carrels serve as Zoom Cubes — a place for students to join their virtual class or meeting — made available through an online reservation.
“The area is completely transformed. It’s amazing what a difference moving the compact shelving has made,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries. “The area is open and flooded with natural light. I think students are going to love it.”