Phase one of the Robarts Revitalization Project is slated for completion this April. The project, which began in 2009 with renovations on the fifth floor, has a total budget of $24.4 million, funded by a single donor and the Ontario provincial government.
Finished renovations include the third-floor Media Commons, as well as overhauled study spaces and group study rooms in the apexes of the ninth – thirteenth floors.
“The idea is to bring in more light and to make better study space, and more of it too,” said Margaret Wall, Robarts communications librarian. “We’ve renovated the stacks floors totally, so the apexes, we’ve added hundreds of spaces.”
The renovations were motivated by a combination of factors: increased enrolment at U of T put pressure on the existing resources, which were already in need of improvement according Bonnie Horne, another librarian involved in the project. Horne also cited a “need to ensure a stimulating work atmosphere for learning and research,” as well as a “need to allow for changing technology” as impetus for the renovations.
The major final addition will be the second floor porticoes, currently under construction. Identical on both the northeast and southeast sides, the porticoes insert glass in areas that were formerly open-air. “When that’s done it’s going to be a beautiful big space,” said Wall. “It will be an entrance but it’s not really just an entrance — it’s going to be a place where people can congregate and eat their lunch, or study.”
There will also be digital signage on the second floor that will be used to broadcast announcements and information, as well as available study space on various stacks floors. There will be devices throughout the floors that estimate the number of people using a space. That information can then be disseminated through the signage, saying, for example, that the tenth floor is 70 per cent full.
The second phase of the project would include further renovations to the stacks floors, as well as a second-floor administrative wing, study café, and “Huron Street Pavilion.” However, this is contingent on further funding. “We’re actually very much still in the fundraising stage at the moment,” said Wall on the second phase of the project. “So we don’t really have a timeline for it at the moment, but we do know it’s going to add lots of new study spaces.”