What’s with that big white tent?

By Chris Beauchamp

The University of Calgary skyline will be forever altered with the construction of the Campus Calgary Digital Library. The plan will see a number of existing campus services take up residence in a new $114 million building nearly as big as the existing library block.

“The project itself is a really visionary one,” said acting Information Resources director Dr. Ann Davis. “We’re more than just a new building on campus.”

The CCDL will give students from Calgary’s other post-secondary institutions access to the U of C’s digital holdings. It will also be the cornerstone of a broader digital network incorporating libraries from all of Alberta’s post-secondary education institutions. For U of C students however, Davis said the building is intended to become the new “heart” of campus.

The CCDL will include 500 new computer stations for student use, and the relocation of Information Technologies, the Info Commons, the Nickle Arts Museum, the Learning Commons, Student Academic Services, Library Special Collections and a number of new collaborative work rooms, said Davis.

“Students will be able to come to what we’re calling the heart of campus and find out where to get information about just about anything they need,” she said, noting the project will be the biggest infrastructure upgrade to campus in years.

When completed, the building will include approximately 20,000 square meters of new space–which is nearly the current space of the entire MacKimmie tower and block combined, said Davis.

The CCDL groundbreaking ceremony takes place Fri., Mar. 31, just in time to kick-off the 40th anniversary of U of C autonomy, April 1. Although an architect has yet to be hired, both Davis and U of C vice-president external Roman Cooney said the building will be located somewhere on the west side of the existing complex and they will be connected.

However, the prospect of a huge new building has some on campus concerned about the green space known as the “sculpture garden.”

“I feel there is still not a lot of thought into that aspect of our campus,” said kinesiology client services staff member Julie Walker. Walker leads free walks around campus for faculty and staff members centered on the history of the U of C’s green spaces. She had circulated a petition last month calling for the CCDL to be relocated elsewhere, but has since modified the petition to call for more community consultation in the planning process, and a focus on preserving landscaped areas.

Davis acknowledged Walker’s concern, but stressed that the actual planning stages for the exact location and dimensions of the building are on hold until architectural teams are hired in May.

“I laud her concern,” she said. “I think this campus has been known for its green spaces [but] this will be an exciting and positive building for the whole campus.”

Davis said construction should start by the fall, with completion by the end of 2008. Renovations to the existing MacKimmie library will also be carried out to bring it in-line with the new building.

Currently $4 million has been granted from the province for funding, but the government has promised further funds in the recent budget. Specific funding announcements are expected at this week’s groundbreaking ceremony.

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