KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is planning a major renovation project that would move Calvin T. Ryan Library further into the 21st century and better address the needs of students, staff and faculty.
The result of a master planning process that started in 2016, the roughly $25 million project would enhance the library’s role as the center of learning on campus by creating an inviting and engaging environment that combines physical collections with new technology while devoting more space to group and individual study areas.
“Student library needs and use are as varied as the students themselves. During a library visit, a student might shift between consulting with a librarian, being a solitary user, working with a project team or study group or visiting socially with a friend. We hope to develop a space that would work toward meeting all of those needs,” said Janet Stoeger Wilke, dean of Calvin T. Ryan Library.
Over the past two decades, UNK has shifted from physical to online access for many resources. The remodel would allow for more efficient storage of the library’s physical collections, reducing operating costs and providing additional room for other services and resources.
Instructional labs and a variety of collaborative work areas would allow patrons to interact with each other, while other areas would be reserved for individual studying in a quieter environment. The project also improves access to the UNK archives and special collections and creates space for university and community programs, exhibits and other outreach activities.
“Students want a library to be engaging and inspiring,” Wilke said. “That tells them important work is done here. We want future students to see themselves in the space.”
Under the proposed renovation plan, the library would serve as a hub for academic support services by bringing existing UNK programs together in a single location. The library currently partners with and houses the Learning Commons.
“One goal of the renovation is to improve collaboration between student support services to enhance student success and increase retention and graduation rates,” said Jon Watts, vice chancellor for business and finance. “Libraries across the country are moving swiftly to integrate these services and develop new learning spaces that meet the needs of a 21st century university.”
Opened in 1963, the UNK library is in need of cosmetic and mechanical upgrades, as well.
The renovation would update the lighting, flooring, ceilings, paint, furniture, restrooms, IT infrastructure and HVAC systems, extending the nearly 90,000-square-foot building’s useful life and increasing energy efficiency.
A redesigned main level would improve student access to resources and services, including research assistance and other needs.
The project also includes new glass facades and other design improvements to existing entrances that will make the building more accessible and visually appealing.
The renovation is planned as a multiphase project, allowing library operations to continue during the work. It would begin with the mechanical upgrades and take several years to complete.
The proposal is expected to be presented to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in October. Pending approval, construction could start in early 2022.
“We’re going to move pretty quickly on this,” Watts said.
A priority project for UNK Student Government for several years, the library renovation would be funded by bonds issued through LB384, a recently passed bill that extends a state-university partnership addressing deferred maintenance needs across the NU system.