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Improving on Cowles

Cowles Library will be getting a three-phase facelift starting this summer.

The feat, dubbed the Lower Commons project, will center around the creation of a new “after-hours access” entrance, which will allow for a 24-hour space for students to utilize.

“During the (planning) process we heard a lot about the importance of a good study space within the library itself and about the need for a safe and comfortable late night study facility somewhere at Drake,” said Marcus Davis, coordinator of library technology.

The project will also include the expansion of Cowles Café, installation of high-density shelving towers, expansion and relocation of the teaching classroom, and the addition of consultation offices and meeting rooms.

“The Lower Commons project builds on the success of the Cowles Café and the popularity of the group study area adjacent to it,” Davis said.

The project will run from the ramp leading to the café and the adjacent study room, including classroom 122, and would extend to the hallway between the University Avenue entrance and the marble stairway up to the Reading Room.

Davis said reclaiming the “dead space” of the large hallway creates a buffer between the active social learning space of the Lower Commons and the traditional quiet, individual study space of the Reading Room and it’s atrium on the second floor.

The large, drafty windows along the south and west sides of the study area will also be repaired and improved. Solar film or other window treatments might be used to help regulate temperatures and soften glare and reflections on computer screens.

While the project is waiting final approval from the President’s Cabinet and the Board, the current schedule calls for renovations to start immediately after finals conclude. The timeline is set to ensure the space will be ready for the fall semester.

This will mark the first major renovation in the library since the 1998 restoration of the grand Reading Room Atrium.

Though planning for phase I isn’t completely solidified, the committee is already looking ahead to phase II. That phase will create more group study rooms, a virtual classroom, a digital productions center and presentation rooms. Phase III will call for a relocation of the entrance, adding a second elevator, relocating and expanding the café, relocating of staff operations and Knowledge Commons.

Students on campus are anticipating the changes for the library.

“I’ve always been able to focus well in the library,” first-year Payton Albrecht said. “Sometimes I want to go to the library later in the evening, but know as soon as I settle in and get some real work starts it’s going to be time to leave, so the fact that I’ll have as much time as I need will be great.”

Sophomore Mallory Bonstrom said she is frequently kicked out of the library at closing time, so she will use the 24-hour study space once it’s completed.

“College students have wacky sleep and study schedules, so I think this will be a good change,” Bonstrom said.

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