The construction of Robarts Common, the current project of the Robarts renewal intiative and the first addition to the library in 42 years, began on the week of July 24.
According to the University of Toronto’s Chief Librarian, Larry Alford, the construction was set to begin in March 2016 but was delayed due to a building tender that went over the budgeted amount.
The five-storey addition, expected to be completed by the fall in 2019, will provide 1,200 new study spaces and expand the existing seating in Robarts Library to 6,027 seats. “I sometimes see students sitting on the floor in various parts of Robarts at peak times when they simply can’t find enough seating. So it will take care of that,” said Alford.
The Common will include alcoves, reading rooms, and a significant number of group study rooms. Alford said that there will be both casual seating as well as a lot of “very quiet seating.”
“One needs only to walk through one of the reading rooms to detect the current lack of space. Come exam season, finding a spot in the library is nearly impossible,” Anne Boucher, Vice-President External at the University of Toronto Students’ Union, told The Varsity. “It is clear that space in Robarts has passed its current capacity.”
Third-year Rotman Commerce student Dawood Younis is glad to see new innovations and updates to buildings on campus. “[Robarts Commons] is a sign of continued investment in new and updated facilities on campus,” Younis said. “Ryerson has a state-of-the-art student center… There is no reason why funds cannot or should not be allocated to refresh the aging facilities.”
Not all students were happy with the news of the Robarts Common addition, however.
“[Robarts Library] is a success story in architecture… It’s imposing, terrifying, spectacular and carries the flag of the brutalist movement in ways other Toronto Brutal monuments simply cannot,” said Daniel Lewycky, an Architecture student in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. “Not that I would want to preserve the poor thing, but unlike, say, the ROM expansion, U of T isn’t taking any kind of risk with this design. It’s the same glass box you’ve seen a thousand times before.”
The addition of diverse study spaces in libraries on campus is something that Innis College Student Society President Yolanda Alfaro is happy to see.
“A few students I’ve spoken to appreciate the effort to create different types of learning environments,” said Alfaro. “From personal experience, I know how hard it is for undergraduates to find an open and welcoming area suitable for group projects and studying.”
There will be no ground-breaking ceremony for the new Robarts Commons addition, but the start of construction will be celebrated alongside library heritage celebrations in October.