University Library to be remodeled later this year

From Vietnamese pop music to 50 Cent, from The Jetsons to The Sopranos, "you name it, we either have it or we try and get it," said Valerie Garrett-Turner, interim manager at the University and Wallingford branch libraries.

Because they serve such a wide variety of patrons, the University Library's nine-member staff works hard to meet everyone's needs. The library's upcoming remodel will only make the goal easier.

An upcoming remodel

The University branch, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, first opened in 1910. Watson and Cornelia Allen donated the land for the library, and Andrew Carnegie donated the $38,935 for construction.

The building was designed by Joseph Cote and W. Marbury Somervell, who worked on a majority of the Carnegie-era libraries, sticking with a similar style for all. According to Garrett-Turner, the library underwent a $724, 811 renovation in 1986 and is now in the process of an approximately $759,000 remodel.

In 1998, University Library was listed on the Libraries for All bond and granted the budget for its remodel. The branch is currently in the design stage. Patrons can expect many changes, including an enhanced collection, improved seating, better access for disabled library users, more effective reference and work room spaces, updated computers and some cosmetic remodeling.

Garrett-Turner also hopes for wireless Internet capabilities once the remodel is complete.

A deep history

While the building is undergoing construction, the branch will be closed, the collections will be moved out and the staff will be working in other libraries. According to Garrett-Turner, University is expected to be closed beginning this fall.

"University is one of the oldest buildings built for a purpose and continued to be used for that same purpose," she said.

While the remodel may alter the library's physical appearance, Garrett-Turner says it's important to continue remembering the library's past.

"History doesn't just stop at a particular date," Garrett-Turner said, which is why the University branch focuses on training its staff in the history of not only the library, but the history of the neighborhood.

"Community history is something that people need to pay attention to," said Gary Owens, of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

There is a lot of potential interest in the area for community-history projects and these need to be capitalized on, he added.

And in fact, the branch already has one such project. A series of photographs documenting University Library's history line the walls of the library's meeting room. According to Garrett-Turner, these photos are part of what sets University apart from other branches.

Book groups and story times

The University Library's programming also distinguishes it. Every third Wednesday of the month, a book group meets there, and on Fridays, University hosts toddler and preschool story times at 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively.

The library also has a wide variety of databases that patrons can use by visiting the library's website ( Online Homework Help offers free tutoring from experts in math, science, English and social studies in the form of a live chat.

The Learn a Test database is designed to help patrons prepare for exams such as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

"Databases allow us to have a deeper depth of coverage for our patrons," Garrett-Turner said. "Not all patrons can get to the library, so the databases are a great way to reach more people's needs.

"I'm constantly amazed by the things I find there, and I look at it every day," she said of the library's Web site. "It's like another branch, but one you can go to in your pajamas."

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