DU Solidifies Plans to Renovate Penrose Library

When I was on our undergraduate senate my sophomore year, 2007-2008, we began discussions for significant improvements to the University of Denver’s physical structure, specifically to Driscoll Student Center and Penrose Library.  We focused primarily on Driscoll, as it is the heart of the student experience – or should be.  Discussions even included meetings with planners and consultants and had options of linking the library and student center together.

With the economy heading downhill, discussions were delayed or put off and now seem to be put on hold in relation to renovations of the Driscoll Student Center.  For many administrators, it seemed that Penrose Library was a higher priority for financial investment.

It now seems that progress is finally being made.  Yesterday, the Dean of Penrose Library sent the following announcement to members of the University community:

We are pleased to report that after years of planning improvements to the library’s physical plant, we are now officially working with an Architect of Record, H+L Architecture, in collaboration with the University Architect. We are very excited to be moving forward with plans for a dramatic improvement in the ability of the library to meet the needs of our students and faculty — today and long into the future. When Penrose Library was built in the early 70s, library spaces were designed to support individual study, supporting the lecture-style pedagogy of teaching. Faculty members worked to analyze generations of published knowledge through research in the book collections. Now, students work in study groups, develop team projects, use technology in innovative ways, and collaborate with faculty and other students in learning outside the classroom. Faculty combine research based on books and journals with scholarly communication online, and digitized primary resource s.

We will not only create appropriate spaces for student study and practice groups, and for faculty research, but will support social learning, interactive technologies, student-centered programs, and, of course, individual quiet study. The library is a place students and faculty go for academic support; in one convenient location, they find the Writing Center, the Research Center, the Math Center, and the technology help desk, while faculty, similarly, go to the library for collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning. These academic support services combined with digital and tangible library collections make the Penrose Library the University of Denver’s Academic Commons.

The Penrose Library Academic Commons project will create an entirely new library in the same location. During construction, which is anticipated to last about a year and a half, it is our intention to create a study location, using the Driscoll Ballroom and Gallery space, surrounded by academic support services, re-creating (in so far as possible) the main floor of the library in another location. All DU staff and faculty currently housed in the library will be temporarily relocated, using Aspen Hall and other locations, and our collections will be temporarily housed off campus as well, to protect both people and collections from the hazards of construction. We will retrieve and deliver collections during construction, aiming for only an hour or two between request and delivery. After the library is complete, we will move all staff back into their permanent spaces in the new library. Active collections will be housed on the lower level of the new library, with very low-! use collections located off campus in a new collections annex.

As plans for the new library evolve, library staff and the architectural team will be gathering input, and library staff will develop a communication plan to support delivery of library services during the construction period. While dates could change, the soonest the library building could be temporarily closed, and temporary staff and service locations established would be the summer of 2011, with a possible grand opening for the new library by December 2012.

As we move ahead with a clear timeline for architectural plans and a construction schedule, we will devise a reliable and comprehensive communication plan. In the meantime, we will continue to build both digital and paper collections, web-based and in-person services, and outstanding academic support partnerships for the research library of the future.

Nancy Allen, Dean and Director

Penrose Library

I am excited about the potential of these renovations.  I hope that they, along with plans for a new School of Engineering and Computer Science, will continue to position the University as a leader for the next century.