Main Content

What's Up: Special Collections & Archives Expansion

eNews Edition: Summer 2015

Contributed by Marianne Afifi

The Oviatt Library has embarked on a new renovation project. The southwest area of the Oviatt Library’s 2nd floor will soon be transformed into a new Special Collections and Archives Reading Room and, most importantly, a state-of-the-art, climate controlled compact storage facility for the Oviatt’s growing collection of rare materials.

One of the most important facets of any good university library is its collection of primary sources and unique holdings. The Oviatt Library, however, was outgrowing its space for these unique holdings and many of them were being stored under less than ideal conditions. Rare books, manuscripts, artifacts and archival collections are best kept in an environmentally-controlled facility. Currently only a portion of the Oviatt’s collections are kept in this type of storage environment, because of space limitations. The new storage space will allow us to control temperature and humidity and will contain compact shelving which allows more materials to be stored per square foot than conventional shelving. The new layout and additional storage will result in faster retrieval of materials, as well as the capability of preserving materials in the best way possible. In addition to the enhancement of care for the existing collections, the Library also looks forward to welcoming and housing new acquisitions in the improved space.

The new public reading room will contain a service desk and comfortable seating in a quiet atmosphere for research of Special Collections and Archives materials. Students, faculty and staff, and community researchers will be asked to follow the guidelines for the use of these often rare and fragile materials. These guidelines are described on the Special Collections and Archives: Using the Collections page.

This is only Phase One of the project. Next year, in Phase Two, the old reading room and stacks will be transformed into new workspaces for the department’s faculty and staff.  Currently, the Oviatt Library’s work space for employees in the department is not ideal, as employees must be housed throughout the library building.  This distribution leads to inefficiencies in terms of processing and communication, and increases security risks to the collections. The new workspace will allow more efficient processing using the latest methods employed by librarians and archivists. In addition, a lecture room will be added which will allow librarians to hold instructional sessions for students. The new multipurpose room will accommodate classes from different departments on campus who will be able to learn how to approach primary materials, and how to use them in their research.

The expansion and renovation satisfies several of the Library’s goals for its collections: more climate controlled space to provide proper storage of materials; a new public research area where collections will be readily accessible; an efficient work space for the faculty and staff of the department; and a room for classes to learn about and explore primary source materials.

Phase One began in early June and will last into the Fall Semester.  Current projections are for completion of this phase of the project by October. The work area is walled off during construction and much care is taken in assuring that the public is not adversely affected. Phase Two will likely begin after the 2016 Spring Semester and should be completed by the fall of 2016.

We are grateful to Jack and Florence Ferman, donors and special friends of the Oviatt Library.  The Fermans bequeathed a very generous gift to the Oviatt library directed for the expansion and renovation of Special Collections and Archives.  To further enhance the renovated Special Collection and Archives wing, we are offering naming opportunities in the newly remodeled areas and unique possibilities to endow Oviatt’s rare and special collections.  To learn more about some of the many ways in which you can help the Library continue its evolution and to help us better meet the growing needs of our diverse campus community, you can click one of the giving links in this newsletter, or visit our Ways to Give page. Please contact Projects and Programs Coordinator, Joyclyn Dunham,, if you would like more information regarding the designation of your special gift.