Western’s largest and busiest library is “past-due” for a revitalization, and detailed consultations on its transformation will take place with the campus community during next few months, said Catherine Steeves, vice-provost and chief librarian.
Opened in 1972, The D.B. Weldon Library has had only minor upgrades since its opening.
The basis and scope of the proposed work are included in the Western Libraries Space Master Plan, a long-term roadmap to transform library spaces and facilities for today’s and future needs, to adapt old spaces and create new ones where people can learn, research and collaborate.
“We’re just at the very beginning of this project,” said Steeves.
Upcoming consultations with students, staff, faculty and others in the campus community will start in January and will further shape the vision as the concept becomes functional reality.
The vision includes more and better study/research spaces; a two-storey learning commons; a digital scholarship centre; enhanced community space; specialized teaching and learning areas; dedicated space for graduate students and a rooftop reading garden.
Many of the changes reflect a shift in what libraries have become in the almost-half-century since Weldon opened.
“The library is past-due for revitalization,” Steeves said.
“It wasn’t designed for people. The ground- and main floor were designed to be inhabitable and the rest of the library was intended to be a closed-stack facility. It’s just not what we need anymore.”
What’s needed, she said, is better lighting, including natural light; wayfinding; updated surfaces; renewed furnishings; better people-flow; more study areas and shared spaces and better areas to spark curiosity and discovery.
Student surveys conducted each year provide a common message about the building, she said.
“The repeated themes are that it’s dark, dated and depressing, that the effect of this building is that it’s not conducive to a good student experience … It’s a very dated building, designed for another era.”
The master plan, developed with significant input over the course of 18 – 20 months and approved in 2017, proposes improvements to all library spaces on campus, including a revamp of the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library in the Natural Sciences Centre.
Only the Weldon renovation is the focus of the plan at this time.
Together, the Weldon and Taylor libraries account for 2.1 million visits each year, and almost 9,800 daily visitors during busy periods.
Steeves said the first phase of construction at Weldon would ideally begin in late 2019, but that would be dependent on consultations, more detailed architectural and renovation plans still being developed and on academic scheduling needs.
The estimated cost of renovations to Weldon library is pegged at $33.4 million, of which $15 million is approved for the first phase.