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March 14, 1996

Hillman isn't the only Pitt library that is coping with overcrowding

Hillman Library's overcrowding has been well documented in news articles and reports to such groups as the Board of Trustees and Senate Council's plant utilization and planning committee. It also is readily apparent by the number of students who can be found sprawled on the library's floors studying because of seating sacrificed for additional shelving.

But Hillman is not the only library in the University system suffering from a lack of space. Owen Library on Pitt's Johnstown campus (UPJ) has reached the point where it is considered to be 100 percent full.

Libraries at Pitt's three other regional campuses generally are in much better shape than either Hillman or Owen. Greensburg's Millstein Library is less than a year old and should be adequate to meet the campus's needs for the next 20 years, according to director Pat Duck.

Likewise, Hanley Library on the Bradford campus is only eight years old and should have plenty of room to grow for the next 15 years, according to director Dennis Frank. Titusville's Haskell Library is somewhat more crowded, but still has enough space for at least another five years, according to director Alan Hughes.

The situation at Johnstown's library, though, has gotten so bad that the library staff has begun placing books on the top shelves of the stacks, a place where books were never meant to be housed, and to weed out duplicate volumes and offer them for sale.

"We're in the same boat that they [Hillman] are in," noted UPJ Library director Joyce Davis. "We're still able to get stuff on the shelves, but every time we put things out, we have to shift things around and use the top shelves. And many of our top shelves are full." Actually, Owen is in somewhat better shape than Hillman because the Pennsylvania legislature in January 1994 appropriated $4 million for capital improvements to the UPJ facility. Hillman is still waiting to learn if it will receive a private foundation grant to construct a high-density storage facility. The problem for UPJ is that its library money remains locked away in Harrisburg.

"We have to get in line to have it released," said Davis. "That could take another three or four years. Or it could happen next month, although I seriously doubt that." When the money is released, according to Davis, preliminary plans call for it to be used for asbestos abatement, the improvement of heating and air conditioning systems, and a general renovation of the building's mechanical systems.

Davis also hopes to gain more space by using some of the funds to convert Owen's ground floor from classrooms and laboratories to library space. If the ground floor is redesigned for library use, Owen would gain an additional 10,000 square feet. The library currently has about 18,000 square feet of space.

"We can probably bring the capacity of the building up to about 200,000 volumes," Davis said. "We've got about 130,000 on the shelves right now." Even with the proposed renovation, though, Owen will only have a net of about 26,000 square feet of space, she added. According to standards established by the Association of College and Research Libraries, a campus the size of UPJ should have a library of 45,000 to 48,000 square feet. "So, it is still not going to bring us up to where we should be," said Davis said. "It just will improve things a little bit." To make the renovation as quick and painless as possible once the $4 million is released by the state, UPJ officials are planning to vacate Owen and do the work during the summer months when there are fewer students on campus.

"We would literally close the library on the first of May and move the materials we would need to support summer classes into vacant classrooms," Davis said. "Then we would simply turn over the building to the people who are doing the abatement and renovation, and move back in sometime in the middle of August so that we would be in a completely renovated building when school starts in the fall." Even if the state released the money tomorrow, it would be too late for the project to begin this summer. Two months would not be enough time to meet with architects and formulate final plans for the project, and then move all of the materials that would need to be moved, according to Davis.

The $4 million appropriated by the legislature is expected to be enough to renovate Owen, but Davis said the UPJ administration is studying ways to raise funds if more money should be needed. If UPJ does undertake a fund-raising drive, she added, it would attempt to raise enough money to create an endowment that would produce an annual income for acquisitions.

Owen's acquisition budget is currently about $178,000, which means that UPJ is able to add fewer than 1,000 volumes annually to its library. Davis said: "The only thing that is going to keep us from getting as bad as Hillman [in terms of storage] is that our budget is so low we can buy very little material and we are weeding out the collection." The University's current acquisition budget for the Bradford campus is about $110,000; for Greensburg about $95,000 and for Titusville about $18,000.

–Mike Sajna

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