The elevators in Robarts Library are 44 years old — that’s about 19 years older than the average life expectancy for elevators. The university recently contracted Kone Elevators to upgrade the Robarts elevators, but a number of students are complaining about congestion in the meantime.

Ranked among peer institutions, the University of Toronto Libraries (UTL) system is the third largest academic library in North America, with Robarts Library being the largest individual library in the UTL system.

According to Ron Swail, assistant vice-president of Facilities and Services, the project will last three years — including three summers of maintenance. He added that steps such as replacing the elevators one at a time were taken to minimize inconvenience to students and staff.

The elevators are being replaced one at a time, beginning with the P3 stack elevator on September 22.

According to Swail, the renovations were weighed against other pressing deferred maintenance needs. One factor in the decision was that replacement parts for the elevators are no longer available, so breakdowns lead to a longer than normal downtime. Swail said that the upgrades will reduce breakdown frequencies, improve service times, cut energy use, and include a number of accessibility and aesthetic improvements, such as hands-free emergency phones.

According to the 2013 Annual Report on Deferred Maintenance, the university has a deferred maintenance backlog of $505 million. Robarts Library accounted for $4,998,862 of the backlog.

The Facilities and Services department is also currently upgrading the central fans in Robarts — which will improve climate controls — and the lighting in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. Both upgrades are expected to reduce energy use.

Despite posters on the elevator doors and a description of the upgrades displayed on a whiteboard on the main floor of the library, many students remain unaware of the project. “People were upset because they didn’t know the project was going on, but everyone is much more understanding now,” said a Robarts library assistant who requested anonymity.

Hailey*, a fourth-year psychology student, complained that elevator service at Robarts has been slow, and that lines have been much longer with certain elevators out of service.

Another Robarts library assistant who requested anonymity said that elevator wait times have been much longer since the start of the project on September 22. The library assistant added that students seem frustrated, and questioned why the project wasn’t started over the less congested summer months.

*First name only used at student’s request.