USU opens new library today

Preserving the old: The modern facility incorporates a longtime campus landmark
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LOGAN - When the Legislature approved $40 million to replace a 75-year-old library at Utah State University, the plan called for combining the school's two libraries into one.

Over the past three years, the old Merrill Library has been rebuilt to its original size - 220,000 square feet - and joined to the existing Cazier Science and Technology Library, creating a new 305,000-square-foot building at the heart of the USU campus.

Today, USU will officially open the new Merrill-Cazier Library, renamed in honor of two former administrators, Milton R. Merrill and Stanford O. Cazier. Author and television news essayist Richard Rodriguez will be the keynote speaker.

USU opened the new library to students in 2005 so demolition could begin closing the book on the old structure.

Student Sharon McKinley wasn't sure what to expect. The senior interior design major said she worried the new library would look like two buildings with a joint entrance.

"They made it work," she said. "I love the open layout and the comfortable chairs."

Linda Wolcott, USU vice provost for library administration, expects to hear similar comments because the new facility exceeded expectations, she said. Standing in the spacious four-story atrium, Wolcott noted how the original "sci-tech" library flows into the new structure and creates an "openness" the entire length of the library.

Patrons will find an exciting, vibrant atmosphere in a building that "deftly mixes the old with the new," Wolcott said during a recent tour of the library with architect Stephen Smith, who supervised the design and construction project for Salt Lake City-based Gillies Stransky Brems Smith (GSBS) architecture and design firm.

Wolcott pointed to what had been webbed orb lighting fixtures from the old library that now hang as inspirational sculptures over the art books area. A carving, "With all thy getting, get understanding" graces the entrance just as it did in the old building.

"Respecting the past while looking to the future was one of the guiding themes for the new library," Wolcott said. The atrium is her favorite place, she added, often referring to it as "open and welcoming."

Wolcott, who oversaw the project for USU, wanted to avoid a building that was too utilitarian. "It had to be functional but we also wanted a library that would attract people and give them a reason to come," she said.

Some of the library's highlights include a 150-computer information commons, an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), a variety of individual and group study areas with natural light and mountain views.

Smith, who served as his firm's liaison between contractors, architects, state facilities and construction managers, USU facilities team and library administrators, said it's always more challenging to create a "seamless incorporation" of the old and new. Designers successfully blended natural wood, concrete, metal and glass finishes with the tone and finishes of the existing structure, he explained.

Smith also noted what is becoming a library's "must have" - the high-tech automated storage and retrieval system to house books and other library materials and deliver them in a matter of minutes to the circulation desk. The University of Utah's Marriott Library also will have an ASRS when its renovation and construction work is completed in 2008.

The ASRS frees library floor space for more studying areas and computer labs, Smith said.

Utah State University program

What: Merrill-Cazier Library

Date: today

Time: 2 p.m.

Place: Logan campus (library's atrium)

Open to the public: Following the opening program, guests are invited to enjoy refreshments and join student-guided tours of the building.

Author Richard Rodriquez will be the keynote speaker for USU's library opening event. Rodriquez has worked for more than two decades for Pacific News Service. He also has been a contributing editor for Harper's Magazine and the Sunday Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times. He often appears on PBS' "News Hour with Jim Lehrer."