Beinecke undergoes repair efforts

For the first time since a new roof was installed in the ’80s, a wall of metal scaffolding climbs up the High Street side of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library.

Current construction on the building will not dramatically alter the structure of the building but rather repair existing maintenance problems, beginning with repairs to the roof, Director of the Beinecke Frank Turner said. The renovations follow upkeep suggestions that library officials received after the building underwent a complete examination, the first of its kind since the Beinecke was built in 1963.

In addition, as spatial constraints plague the both Beinecke and other University libraries, an $18.9 million expansion has been proposed for the Library Shelving Facility in Hamden, Conn.

Turner, who said he believes keeping the library open and functioning is of utmost importance, said the construction company hired to work on the library’s various construction projects over the next five to six years specializes in hospital renovations and is accustomed to working around daily operations.

About 3.1 percent of Yale’s endowment — a sum of $565 million in 2006 — is reserved for building maintenance, which includes an undisclosed amount for the Beinecke’s upkeep.

First on the construction schedule is a restoration of the library’s roof and ceiling. The mezzanine level of the library will be off-limits due to safety concerns as construction crews install a platform to function as a fake roof — hence the maze of wood and metal scaffolding along the side of the building, Turner said. By the end of the process, which is slated for completion by mid-summer, the building will feature new lighting fixtures, polished copper and reinforced railings.

Next year, Turner said, the stone sculpture garden, sunken deep below ground level, will be raised to install a new membrane. The internal climate control system will also be updated.

But with the library’s underground offices and bookstacks already occupying the entire area below Beinecke Plaza, no renovations to the Beinecke can remedy the spatial constraints.

The need to prevent overcrowding is not a new concern, Associate University Librarian Danuta Nitecki said. Within each of the University’s libraries, certain books currently taking up space on library shelves yield their space for new additions.

Although the amount of money spent on new acquisitions to Yale’s library collection remains a closely guarded secret, 250,000 new items are added to the University’s collection each year, Nitecki said. And with new collections being purchased and art, manuscripts and books continually being bequeathed to the library’s collection, space — especially at the Beinecke — is a precious commodity.

Almost one-quarter of the library’s catalogued collection are stored off campus in the shelving facility in Hamden, which has been in operation since 1998. The 3-millionth item was added to the facility’s shelves last week.

The Hamden facility, built outside New Haven where real estate is less expensive, is a destination for the storage of items that have a low level of use, are duplicates or are in poor condition, Nitecki said.

But while the LSF includes both an 8,000-square-foot processing area and 32,800 square feet of shelving space, it, too, is being quickly filled to the limit by the University’s growing collection.

In this year’s capital budget, $18.9 million is docketed by the University for the expansion of the Hamden facility. The expansion proposal was brought before the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, last month.

Nitecki said the expansion, which should be completed by 2009, will enable the Hamden facility to accommodate growth over the next few decades.

But items stored miles from campus are as available to students as those held on the shelves of Bass or Sterling, Nitecki assured. Materials at the LSF remain fully accessible to the Yale community through records in an online catalog and a barcode system.

“When we decide to store books at the LSF, that decision is not necessarily final,” Nitecki said. “If we’ve stored something there that later becomes popular with our patrons, it will be able to come back to campus for pickup,” she said. “We don’t want to be an inconvenience to students.”

Reed Abrahamson ’08, who requested sources both at the Beinecke and from the LSF to research his senior thesis, said that the library system makes the University’s resources very accessible to students.

“It’s’ really easy to find what you need. … Everything is in Orbis; all you have to do is fill out a request,” he said.

Although his paper, titled, “The Union Army in Indian Territory, 1862-1865,” required the use of obscure books and sources, Abrahamson said the ability to request books both from the University and through inter-collegiate loan helped lessen the burden of obtaining sources. A book requested from the LSF, for example, will arrive for on-campus pickup in one or two days, he said.

“It’s pretty quick turnaround; I’ve never had any problems,” he said. “But then again, if you are requesting a book from LSF, you probably aren’t looking for it last-minute.”

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