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Ekstrom Library

Ekstrom Library Third Floor Renovation Project: Transforming Ekstrom Library into an Academic Success Center

Project Description

The proposed project is a renovation of Ekstrom Library’s 3rd floor. This renovation is the next step in the process to transform Ekstrom Library into an academic success center for all Belknap campus students and builds on previous renovations including the 1st floor transformation that was completed in 2016. That renovation collocated many student success programs (REACH, Digital Media Suite, Research and Technology Support, Writing Center, and help desk) while adding group and individual learning spaces, and updating the appearance and function of the spaces to modernize them and make them visually attractive.

By all measures, the 1st floor renovation was highly successful. At the conclusion of the project, then President Neville Pinto noted the positive outcomes in saying “… the major transformation of spaces in Ekstrom Library – this has and will in the future have a significant impact on supporting educational excellence and student success.”

The Libraries conduct a campus-wide survey every two years. While increasing student seating was only one of the 1st floor renovation goals, comparing the results of the 2018 survey versus the 2014 survey completed prior to that renovation shows that student satisfaction with the study spaces increased. Graduate student satisfaction increased from 44% to 64% for group spaces and 60% to 72% for individual spaces. Likewise, undergraduate satisfaction increased from 50% to 61% for group spaces and 62% to 69% for individual spaces.

In addition to the biennial survey, the Libraries conducted a post-renovation assessment specific to the 1st floor project. In that assessment, 93% of the students indicated that they were either Highly Satisfied or Satisfied that the project met the intended goals. When asked about specific outcomes, they highlighted their belief that the renovation project would lead to greater academic success on their part while at U of L. In addition to helping achieve greater academic success for existing students, the renovation also has had a positive influence on recruiting new students. Senior Director of Admissions Jenny Sawyer indicates that the 1st floor renovation has had a significant positive impact on both potential students and their families during campus visits.

Wishing to build on the strong success of the 1st floor renovation, Libraries staff have been conducting assessment activities including observational studies of students using Ekstrom Library space, activities with the Libraries Student Advisory Board, and the above-noted 2018 campus-wide survey to guide the future 3rd floor renovation. It is clear from these assessments that library spaces are perceived to be very important by our students. Of the 1,120 open ended comments made by undergraduate students in the 2018 survey, nearly 75% dealt with some aspect of space. The students are very happy with the Ekstrom Library renovations to date but also express a strong desire that Ekstrom’s non-renovated spaces be modernized with an emphasis on quiet learning spaces and places for individual study – conditions lacking in other campus facilities. They also express a desire for simply more student seating in general.

We received positive comments such as “Great start, it is 100x better than it was a few years ago“ and “I love how Ekstrom Library remodeled recently, the environment at the library is very enjoyable.” but we also heard “There should also be renovations to the 3rd floor of the library,” “The 3rd and 4th floors are very dated and don’t really match the first 2,” and "Create or renovate more areas for quiet places. The study carrels are always full and it is hard to find a quiet, clean space for studying.”

In addition to the feedback provided by the survey, strong support for the project has been expressed by the Student Government Association which passed the attached resolution encouraging the campus to move forward with this renovation. 

Project Goals

Based on this extensive feedback, the outcomes for the project include:

  1. Substantially increasing the number of student seats to address the noted shortage
  2. Clearly defining Ekstrom’s 3rd floor as a quiet study and learning space
  3. Creating innovative spaces that will specifically address the stated needs of graduate students
  4. Modernizing and updating the 3rd floor (which is essentially unchanged from its 1981 opening) to meet student needs thus encouraging even greater use of library spaces by students.

Accomplishing these goals will benefit essentially ALL Belknap campus students. Ekstrom Library is already heavily used with a recorded gate count over the last year of nearly two million and data indicating that almost every Belknap student physically logged into a computer in Ekstrom Library during this time as well. By adding more seating and modernizing the 3rd floor space, the proposed renovations will address student dissatisfaction with the current 3rd floor which will help with retention of current students, and, in providing the requested quiet study/learning spaces, will lead to greater student academic success. Creating innovative graduate student-specific spaces will also help these students in pursuit of their dissertations thus leading to increased doctoral student production. Finally, given past successes with Ekstrom renovations, this project will help attract recruitment of new students in their desire to work and study in updated, attractive spaces.

Specific project goals to achieve the broader outcomes include demolition of the previous writing center space and group study rooms on the 3rd floor, relocation of group study furniture from the 3rd to the 2nd floor, providing all new furniture and lighting for the 3rd floor that is conducive to individual study, increasing the availability of power outlets, and updating the esthetic of the space through new paint and flooring. Plans call for the construction of a “silent” reading room and creating an innovative new space that will be dedicated to graduate students. Another planned innovative feature is the enlargement of existing window openings to significantly increase natural light entering the space. 


Several crucial steps have already been completed or are currently underway. Anticipating this next renovation, Libraries staff have been conducting assessment activities since the completion of the 1st floor project to ensure that the updates made to the 3rd floor will meet student needs and propel their academic success. Second, the Libraries have been building the financial resources to start the project. This has included creating a plant fund specific to the project as well as dedicating endowment and unrestricted gift accounts to the project as well. Third, the Libraries have been working to build out Bay 4 of the Robotic Retrieval System that is used to store library collections onsite. The completion of this project in February 2018 has allowed the Libraries to begin relocating collections off the 3rd floor freeing up that space for this renovation. Fourth, the Libraries have already commenced working with University Planning and Design as well as the architects from the 1st floor renovation to design this renovation.

Next steps include:

  • July-August 2018: Finalize draft program for the renovated space.
  • September 2018: Meet with student groups to validate that the program will meet their needs.
  • October-December 2018: Prepare construction and bid documents.
  • January 2019: Bid project Spring Semester 2019: Upon bid award, begin light demolition work to move the project forward but that will not impede students from using the 3rd floor during this semester.
  • May-December 2019: Renovation work and project completion.


The final cost for a renovation of the 3rd floor is estimated to be $3.5-4.0 million. Through the various sources listed above, the Libraries have $2.0 million of this funding available now to design the project and start construction. Because the entire project cost currently is not funded, construction would be limited to the previous writing center space and the northeast corner of Ekstrom’s 3rd floor (highlighted on the attached floor plan.) The project is being designed so that the southern half of the 3rd floor can be renovated incrementally as funding becomes available. The $500,000 requested in this proposal would allow for the renovation and furnishing of approximately 5,000 additional square feet of this space but if less funding is made available, it would still allow for additional renovation on a proportionate basis and for the project to move forward in a timelier manner. The Libraries are committing to a fundraising campaign to develop the funding necessary to complete the remaining portions of the project over the next 2-3 years.

For the $2.0 million currently allocated to the project, the budget allows for $1.5 million in construction expenses, $300,000 for furnishings, and $200,000 for engineering and architectural services. 

Measuring Success

Through the Institutional Research office, the Libraries conduct the aforementioned campus-wide survey every two years. The spring 2020 iteration will have questions designed to solicit input on how this renovation addressed the project goals. Additionally, as the Libraries did after the 1st floor renovation, they will conduct a targeted series of post-renovation assessment activities specifically aimed at measuring the success of the project against defined criteria.