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UCR Library Renovation To Make Serious Noise

UCR Library Renovation To Make Serious Noise

(March 29, 1999)

The academic hush inside the Tómas Rivera Library at the University of California, Riverside is about to be interrupted by a new sound: the rat-a-tat-tat of jack-hammers.

Construction crews soon will begin an $18 million structural overhaul designed to protect patrons and books against the threat of a major earthquake. Library buildings were rated "seismically unsafe" during the last building survey. University Librarian James C. Thompson said the project is expected to be completed in time for the arrival of the freshmen class of 2001.

The library is a community-wide resource, judging from statistics compiled by the library during the 1997-98 academic year. People not affiliated with UCR asked 23 percent of the reference questions and checked out 8 percent of the 321,239 books and other volumes circulated that year.

Voters passed a state construction bond in November that included $16 million to strengthen the underlying beams of the campus' central library with thick shear-walls, steel rods and layers of concrete. The renovation will also triple the number of data ports available to computer-users and make the well-used building completely accessible to the handicapped.

Another $1.4 million for equipment and furniture will rely on fundraising efforts, Thompson said. There are a variety of moving costs, about $600,000, yet to be funded.

The process will not be easy. The library is so centrally located and so critical to the university's mission that almost everyone on campus will feel the impact of the project in some way. Thompson said the overwhelming majority of the 500,000 volume collection will have to be moved at least twice during construction, a collection, that if stacked on top of each other, would stretch 60 miles into the air.

In addition, construction crews will fence off work areas during three distinct construction phases, impeding vehicle traffic on the back loading dock and making pedestrian access through the middle of campus more difficult. Pedestrians will always have a way into the library, said assistant library director, John Tanno, but it may mean some extra walking.

"It will be a crazy couple of years, but at the end of the tunnel we will have a safer, more attractive library," he said.

The UCR Special Collections, which includes the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, has already been temporarily relocated to the former Bio-Agricultural Library, a larger home that allows more of the Special Collections to be on display. Low use collections will go to storage until the renovation is complete, Thompson said. All the materials will be back in Rivera Library after renovation, sitting on specialized earthquake-safe shelving.

Ongoing progress reports about the renovations, including floor maps and tips about how to avoid the noisiest areas, will be available on the library's Web site (

Thompson said he is committed to providing quality service and access to collections throughout the process, despite the construction, which will include reinforcing existing walls with steel rods and sprayed concrete. When the project is complete, the interior will look significantly different, but the exterior of the building will look about the same.

The Rivera library includes three structures built in phases. The original two story wing opened in 1953, just before UCR welcomed its first undergraduate students. The library's four-story main expansion, which included the arched walkway that has become a recognizable symbol of the campus, was dedicated in 1964. Ironically, it is the newer 180,000 square feet of library that needs a seismic retrofit, rather than the oldest section of the building that is part of the early 1950s campus construction.

The library building took the name of the late Tómas Rivera, a former chancellor, on February 18, 1985.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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