For Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Director E. C. Schroeder, the days leading up to the iconic library’s May closure were reminiscent of moving out of a college dorm — albeit on a far greater scale.
The Beinecke’s closure marked the beginning of a 16-month-long renovation, encompassing the addition of new teaching spaces, a comprehensive overhaul of the building’s original HVAC system and the refurbishment of the marble surfaces. In the meantime, the library staff has adapted to new work environments while continuing to provide services to patrons — anything from fulfilling requests for manuscripts to acquiring new collection materials.
Reader services and curatorial staff for the Beinecke are now temporarily located in Sterling Memorial Library, while its technical services department has moved permanently to 344 Winchester Ave., a new hub for Yale University Library system.
“The move went very well in the sense we had everyone out on time,” Schroeder said. “Though it has been slightly discombobulating now that staff are in different locations within Sterling itself and some up on Winchester Avenue.”
Schroeder praised the Science Park office location for its facilities and large meeting spaces, though he said the distance between 344 Winchester and central campus requires staff to think more carefully about structuring their time when they have commitments in both locations.
Staff working in the Beinecke’s temporary reading room — located just off the entrance to the Sterling nave — have adapted to a smaller space than what they enjoyed in the Beinecke, said Head of Access Services Moira Fitzgerald. But the room’s central location and special features, such as a shelving annex for Beinecke materials requested by patrons, make it an optimal choice for the library’s needs.
During the renovation, the International Room in Sterling has been allocated to the Beinecke for classes and workshops, Fitzgerald said. Though the Beinecke used to host up to 15 such events every day, space limitations in Sterling currently prescribe a maximum of two.
Patrons are now limited to requesting five items per day, rather than 10, given the limited amount of space in the Beinecke’s temporary locations.
“Staff are used to going out of their way to make collections available, sometimes on very short notice,” Fitzgerald said. “Now, it’s not possible to make such exceptions, so we are saying ‘no’ more frequently, which we don’t like doing.”
This can pose a challenge for visiting researchers, who are only in New Haven for a finite amount of time. Still, Schroeder said the Beinecke typically hasn’t had any issues with patrons asking for library materials, provided they submit a request for them ahead of time. The library recommends that patrons provide at least two days’ notice for the materials they want to use.
Helder Toste ’16, a history of art major, also voiced concerns about working with the Beinecke given the building’s closure. Toste said plans to use Beinecke collection materials for his thesis, and added he worries about the logistics of requesting the library’s services during the period of renovation.
But Nat Aramayo ’17, who is an employee in Sterling, said they admire the Beinecke’s dedication to ensuring materials remain accessible, even during the renovation.
During the renovation, Beinecke materials are stored in the Library Shelving Facility in Hamden and in the basement stacks of the Beinecke itself. For a small interval each day, staff members are allowed to retrieve requested material from the basement — provided that they wear hard hats, Fitzgerald said.
The Beinecke’s interior has been completely transformed since the building’s closure, Schroeder said. Excepting the ground and second floors, all of the shelving, floor tiles and ductwork in the glass stacks tower have been demolished. A temporary HVAC unit has been installed on the Beinecke plaza, allowing for older units in the Beinecke’s subbasement to be cleared away. In the library’s lower lobby, offices are currently being demolished, along with the carpets and ceilings.
On the external periphery of the library, the ductwork in the marble cube’s soffits is being removed. For protection, a temporary roof was installed over the Beinecke’s outdoor sculpture garden. Currently, the marble sculptures and flooring are being moved offsite for refurbishment. In addition, a few layers of concrete and other material are being removed and replaced due to water damage.
Schroeder said that the demolition phase of the Beinecke renovation should conclude by the end of September or October. Afterward, replacement materials, such as components of the HVAC system, lighting, shelving and flooring, will be installed in the glass stacks tower, lobby, basement stacks and subbasement.
The stacks tower is due to be finished in the spring, Schroeder added, and all construction should be completed by June 2016. After newly installed systems have been tested for functionality, books will be moved back into the stacks tower. In August, the library’s temporary reading room will close and staff will move back into their Beinecke offices.
In fall 2016, as students move into their dorms, the Beinecke will reopen its doors.