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It’s goodbye, books, as UB library powers up for digital age

In the University at Buffalo’s newly renovated Silverman Library, a half-million books have been replaced with more than 1,000 power outlets, 100 computer stations and soundproof studios where students can videotape presentations for classroom projects.

The $7.2 million in changes – which took 18 months to complete – are the latest nod to the digital age on the university’s North Campus in Amherst. Students will get a look at the renovations for the first time on Monday, when classes begin and the library is open to the public.

What they’ll find is a dramatic overhaul:

• Natural light beams through the third-floor windows of Capen Hall into a quiet study area called the “grand reading room,” with seating for 220 people;

• A new centralized café serves Starbuck’s coffee and other treats;

• Seventeen group study rooms, with tables for eight or five people, include 80-inch or 55-inch screen monitors;

• Sixteen study alcove spaces provide seating for groups of up to six to discuss assignments;

• Two classrooms equipped with technology that will allow faculty members to experiment with new teaching methods and techniques;

• Editing stations where students and faculty can create, edit and view their own media productions;

• And, yes, the ugly green carpeting is gone, replaced by subtle tones of gray and a variety of hues on the walls and furniture, depending on the function of a particular area.




The library renovation is the first phase of a multi-year, multimillion-dollar plan to transform Capen Hall into a central campus hub for student learning and services, although university officials are still waiting on state capital funding to move forward with other phases of what is being called the “Heart of the Campus” project.

As the university’s only library open around-the-clock, Silverman has long been a popular study destination for undergraduate and graduate students. But a 2103 survey of students revealed several shortcomings, the most pressing of which was the lack of power throughout the library. Today’s students rely heavily on laptop computers, mobile phones and tablets for study and research and the building, constructed in 1977, wasn’t wired to anticipate the proliferation of those devices in the digital age.

“The most important thing for (students) everywhere as we go through the floor is ubiquitous power,” said Karen D. Senglaup, associate university librarian for administration. “We had perhaps 10 percent of what we have now.”

Students also expressed a desire for a traditional space dedicated for quiet study. To make room, library officials moved out 500,000 volumes of material to other campus libraries and to the library annex.

Students will be able to reserve group study rooms, as well as the two video recording studios and four editing stations through an online system. The studios allow students to record video using a one-button software platform designed at Penn State. Those videos can then be viewed and edited at the editing stations.

“We think this is going to be very popular for both students and faculty,” said Senglaup.

Prior to the renovations, Silverman Library received about 1.3 million visits per year. Administrators expect the number to grow to 2 million visits.


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