Renovation project prompts questions about priorities
By Emily L. Mross
INDIANA - Of all the new construction projects at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the renovation of Stapleton Library's main entrance -- facing the Oak Grove in the heart of campus -- is one of the most visible.
When it is completed in spring 2010, the $1 million project will have replaced the entire patio structure, said Patti Andritz, the project architect from the IUP Department of Engineering and Construction, during an interview at Stapleton on March 4.
Andritz said the waterproofing on the original library patio was installed incorrectly, and it affected the structure's integrity. The renovation started as a project to fix cracked sidewalks and surfaces, which, according to Andritz, were a safety issue. This warranted more repairs and a new look, including new automatic doors at the main entrance.
The "gnarly" benches, which Andritz said were prone to giving visitors splinters, will be replaced with six new sets of sturdy patio furniture that students can move and arrange to their liking.
"The library is changing," said Andritz. "It's not all about books anymore. It's a place to gather."
The change was not without some messiness. The snow drifts of February sat in heaps along mud-covered sidewalks surrounding a chain link fence, blocking off the main entrance. In early March, the patio area was covered with construction equipment and groups of men in coveralls instead of students. A mulch-covered walkway connected the Oak Grove to the library's temporary entrance on the side of the building opposite the University Museum in Sutton Hall.
But the messiness will give way to a gleaming new look to the library, as depicted in an artist's rendering of the completed project on the university's Web site.
On the other side of the Oak Grove, however, messiness was not so manifest at Leonard Hall. Inside and largely out of sight, students dodged buckets and trashcans in the second floor hallway. The receptacles caught water leaking from holes in the ceiling tiles.
These are not the features that the university highlights on its Web site. Instead, it describes the campus as "a combination of historical charm and state-of-the-art facilities."
A source of university pride was the completion of a Campus Preservation plan in September 2009 as part of IUP's inclusion in the Western Pennsylvania Campus Heritage Study. The study is a program of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which chose IUP for inclusion and received funding for the plan from a $200,000 grant from the Getty Foundation, a branch of the J. Paul Getty trust based in Los Angeles and Malibu. The foundation awards grants to organizations and groups with the aim of preserving historical buildings.
The IUP preservation plan includes an analysis of historical campus buildings and recommendations for future renovations and improvements. The entrance to Stapleton Library, built in 1981, is not included.
While the library's exterior got a facelift, a librarian who works inside worried about the effects of budget cuts on academic programs.
"Last year we had a $12,000 budget for sociology," said Susan Drummond, an IUP alumna and librarian, during a Feb 15 interview at the Stapleton reference desk. "Now it's $4,000. We have a third of the budget we had last year. It's true for nearly every department."
Library budget cuts cost student-worker jobs, too. For the 2009-10 academic year the student staff was cut to 100 from 150, a one-third reduction, according to Drummond. But the library hours have not changed. Stapleton remained open 92 hours per week.
"We're open until 2 a.m., and we can only keep the media desk in the basement staffed until 8 p.m.," said Drummond.
This created a problem for students who wanted to use microfiche and other equipment that must be signed out, because those services are restricted to shorter hours than the rest of the library services.
Drummond said the university could have spent $500,000 on the entrance, half as much. The new patio furniture, which Drummond said cost $28,000, and the granite were unnecessary expenditures.
"Who made this decision?" Drummond asked. "Why not replace them with cement?"
Cement does not hold up in the long run, Andritz responded.
"There is a reason why monumental buildings are made from granite," said Andritz. "It lasts. The brick fell apart. Water gets into the cracks and erodes it over time."
The freeze and thaw cycle caused much of the cement and brick deterioration, Andritz said. With granite, this would not be a problem.
A Dec. 14 press release issued by IUP's Office of Engineering and Construction reported the project is funded by capital dollars restricted to maintenance projects.
Andritz said this is money regularly appropriated to IUP and other universities as part of the state budget.
The press release reported that granite was chosen for the library entrance because of its "durability and beauty."
Construction of a library addition, but not an entrance renovation, appears on a list of projects approved by the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education in a five-year plan outlined in minutes of the Jan. 31, 2006, IUP University Senate meeting.
According to the minutes, funds for renovation of Stapleton were not available, and the project had no proposed start date. The proposed capital-spending plan cited in the Senate meeting placed the proposed date for the start of renovations on Stabley Library, not Stapleton, in 2010.
Though IUP secured funds to renovate Stapleton, it remains to be seen when funding for the renovation of other campus buildings will be available.
Emily Mross, a junior majoring in journalism and English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from Bartonsville.
Fast Facts: For more information
For more information on this story, contact the following sources:
Stapleton Library, Room 203
431 South Eleventh Street
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Office of Engineering and Construction
650 South Thirteenth Street
Indiana, Pa. 15705
Fast facts: To get involved
To get involved in issues addressed in this story, the following people and processes can be contacted:
Meets at 3:30 p.m. in Beard Auditorium or Eberly Auditorium at dates listed on the Senate's Web site. Meetings are open to the university community.
Dr. Peter Broad
Senate Chair, 2009-2011
481 Sutton Hall
Indiana University of Pennsylvania