Friday, April 27, 2001


books finally get
extra room

Hamilton Library's new wing
provides much-needed space

By Treena Shapiro

Almost since the three-story Hamilton Library was built in 1970, it has been bulging with books.

University of Hawaii officials hope that will not be the case after next year's renovations.

Today, 250 people were to participate in the dedication of the second six-story addition to the library, which opened in February.

Plans for the addition have been on the drawing boards since 1978 to alleviate overcrowded book collections.

Over that period, students, professors, administrators, legislators and the media have complained the inadequate facilities were more like a warehouse for books than a library worthy of a research university.

Even so, as interim university librarian Jean Ehrhorn said, "It's still a work in progress."

The real celebration begins next year, when for the first time since it opened, Hamilton Library will not be bulging at the seams. "We're happy to have this new space, but we'll be even happier when fall of 2002 comes along and everything is in place," Ehrhorn said.

At the end of March, the university closed Hamilton's main wing for a year's worth of major renovations that include asbestos removal, a telecommunications and electrical upgrade, and a retrofit of the faulty air-conditioning system that has forced the staff to remain ever vigilant in vacuuming away mold when the building gets too humid.

A highlight of the new structure is a freezer in the preservation department that will essentially "freeze-dry the books and kill the mold and bugs," Ehrhorn said.

Throughout the summer, minor renovations will close the library's first six-story addition, as well, leaving patrons with access only to reference and circulation desks on the first floor of the new addition, although most books will be available by request through a paging system.

That is because the new structure's remaining floors will be used to squeeze the library's programs and staff into one-third the space, along with the books that had to be moved out of the main wing.

"It's going to be to be a real mess all summer," Ehrhorn said.

Because of budget constraints and an additional floor that was lopped off plans for the original wing, the library was instantly filled to capacity in 1970.

Eight years later, the first six-floor addition was finished, but with the donation of a 300,000-volume Asia collection from the East-West Center, it also was stuffed from the outset.

As the library added more volumes to its collection -- now more than 3 million volumes -- shelves popped up in what once were carpeted study areas, and the stacks were crammed so tightly that when a book was returned, shelves had to be shifted just so it could be put back in its proper place.

Meanwhile, "we had been squirreling away collections all over campus," Ehrhorn said. Books and journals overflowed into Sinclair Library, Jefferson Hall and the Law Library. When all the construction is complete, it will be the first time in Hamilton's history that the entire collection will be in one location.

In 1990 the visiting accreditation committee pointed out serious concerns that construction funds had not yet been appropriated to build a new addition, even though plans to build the free-standing structure had been in place for a decade.

It was not until 1998 before the new addition was approved with a price tag of $37 million.

Students cramming for finals as the semester draws to a close had few complaints about the ongoing construction, with most saying that the difficulty in locating displaced books was offset by a helpful library staff and the promise of a better library in the future.

Brian Boltz, an unclassified grad student, said, "The renovation is kind of nuts, but it looks like it's going to be good."

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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