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Rendering of inside Robarts

Restoring Robarts

$40-million renovation will boost study space, upgrade technology.

U of T is giving its aging “intellectual heart” a jolt, as work begins this winter on a two-year renovation to Robarts Library that will add study space, spruce up the building’s 1970s decor and update it for the wireless Internet age.

The library’s collection has far surpassed what the building was designed to hold, and the stacks have eaten up much of the building’s original study space, says chief librarian Carole Moore. At the same time, she adds, enrolment has surged, placing greater demand than ever on library resources.

As part of the renovation plans, more than half-a-million infrequently used books will be moved to the university’s storage facility in Downsview, Ontario. The freed-up space will be used to create individual and group study areas with more comfortable seating, better lighting and vastly improved wired and wireless Internet capacity – “much-needed updates,” says Moore.

Ten of the library’s 14 floors and several individual departments will receive their own makeovers. The government documents and map room on the fifth floor will be redesigned into a state-of-the-art geographical information centre, says Moore. Two floors down, the Media Commons will get new screening rooms and more instructional spaces, and reading rooms on the second and third floors will be upgraded with new furniture and lighting.

The changes will occur in two stages. The $40-million renovation will be followed by a $35-million addition, which will add five floors of glassed-in study space on the building’s west side and revamp the St. George Street entrance near Harbord Street. Although the university has funding for most of the renovation, including a $15-million contribution from the provincial government, it still needs to raise money for the addition.

Russell (MA 1947) and Katherine Morrison (PhD 1979) provided the lead gift for the renovation. The couple says they were motivated by a belief in the enduring importance of university libraries. “This is really a vote of confidence in the students,” says Russell. Katherine, who spent a lot of time in Robarts while completing her PhD in English, says study space is particularly important for commuters. “If you have one class at 9 a.m. and one at 3 p.m., you need somewhere to go in-between,” she says.

The Morrisons have also supported Morrison Pavilion, the popular addition to the Gerstein Science Information Centre, and Morrison Hall, the University College residence on St. George Street.

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