The renovations to the second floor Commons in Hodges Library are officially complete, and UT wanted to celebrate.
Administration, faculty, staff and students gathered throughout the second floor of Hodges Thursday afternoon to celebrate the completion of months and months of renovations done to the Commons.
All along the main hall of the second floor booths for different library services were on display. More than a hundred students and faculty mingled from table to table, signing up for a raffle drawing and sampling snacks that some of the booths offered.
Some of the tables included the Writing Center, the Office of Information and Technology, UTPD, the Office of Multicultural Student Life and a photo booth with costumes, just to name a few.
Teresa Walker, head of integrated user services, was very proud of both the Commons and the celebration.
"We have put so much time, and thought and energy into this," Walker said, "and we've been living this renovation for so long now that we really want to celebrate what we've done and see students using it."
Dean of Libraries Steve Smith, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Joel Reeves, Provost Susan Martin and Chancellor Jimmy Cheek all gave speeches toward the latter part of the dedication.
"It's always a great day when we can celebrate something that benefits our students," Cheek said in his speech. "And I'm very proud of the work that's been done here because it's all dedicated to making our students a better place in the library."
The chancellor noted a recent meeting with Smith where Smith noted that Hodges has been ranked 25th among all public U.S. academic libraries, which goes in conjunction with the Top 25 initiative. That ranking puts Hodges third among SEC libraries (beaten only by Texas A&M and Florida) and ranked number one in the state.
"And that means that our library is better than Vanderbilt's," Cheek joked to a roaring crowd.
A small buffet of food was offered to those attending the festivities in the Mary Greer Room after the speeches were done.
The entire renovation cost $3 million. The massive project began in the summer 2012 and was expected to be completed by the fall semester. However, due to the many other construction projects at UT, the renovations were not completed until well into the fall semester, although certain parts were accessible to students prior to completion.
But for some students, such as communications sophomore Brittany Jaimungal-Singh, the wait was worth it.
"I love the new Commons, it's very worker friendly and new installed plugs on the ground so you can work anywhere if you have a laptop," Jaimungal-Singh said. "It was worth waiting for the construction. It annoyed me a little bit but it's better now."
Much of the construction was done to increase space. A dozen new group study rooms were added and the Studio was expanded. Many of the services offered, such as OIT and Research Assistance, were relocated to be in a more central and accessible location. Areas for the Student Success Center, the Math Tutorial Center, the Writing Center and the Stat 201 Lab were also relocated.
"The main thing that we were going for ... was to renovate the entire second floor to have a mainstream quality," Walker explained. "So what we were thinking of was that the library really is the center of campus and we wanted the main corridor ... to have services that were very student centered and were open more than just 8-5. ..."
But although the construction on the second floor is complete, additional renovations will soon begin on the ground floor of Hodges.
Within a few weeks, Dean of Libraries Steve Smith said that construction will begin on the ground floor to make room for One Stop, a central location to combine the services needed for students to manage their enrollment, registration, financial aid and payments. It will act as an alternate location for the Student Services.
Smith does not foresee the construction impeding access to Hodges from the ground floor entrance, but he said that it would be noticeable. He hopes that it will be finished by the summer.
During the summer, renovations will be done to the third through sixth floors, known as the Stacks. Renovations will include making more room and install more electric outlets as well as enhance security elements due to Hodges now being open 24 hours a day.
The first floor Commons will also receive renovations, but Smith said that they probably wouldn't begin for another two to three years because of a lack of funding.
But for Smith, the afternoon was about the completion of the second floor's renovations. For him it was a moment of pride.
"You know, as proud as I am about the space, I'm more proud of our staff," said Smith. "The library staff, UT staff, the contractors, all the people that made this happen. There's definitely a sense of pride in the people and the results."