USF Library, Other Areas, Slated for Improvements

The library’s second floor will be transformed into a learning lab with 300 computer workstations.


By Kevin Burke

Special to USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (May 18, 2012) — The University of South Florida map is changing again, with major upgrades of the USF Library and surrounding spaces heading a list of projects to improve the academic experience for students, capitalize on recent infrastructure improvements, and beautify the campus.


All in about 10 weeks.


Excavation of the second floor of the Library already has begun. That’s right, excavation. USF Libraries Dean Bill Garrison reports removal of the shelving and kiosks developed as something of an archeological expedition, with discarded papers, food and beverage containers, clothes and other evidence of late-night study sessions discovered among the stacks — the contents of which largely have moved into compact storage in the basement.


A new collaborative learning lab will greet incoming and returning students in the space come August. It will include more than 300 computer workstations and be geared toward improving student performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related coursework. Though as with all interdisciplinary and student success initiatives at USF, the area will be available to undergraduate and graduate students regardless of discipline.


Garrison said the library already is the most frequently visited location on campus and that he expects the second floor conversion to complement the “wildly popular” Learning Commons on the first level as another popular meeting, sharing and studying spot for students, who he credits for the changes.


“Students have told us many times that what they want most, more than anything, are convenient study spaces available on their schedule,” Garrison said. “This project includes a high-tech expansion of our Learning Commons that meets their expressed need 24 hours a day.”


With the input and endorsement of students, the USF Board of Trustees in 2009 implemented a Student Technology Fee of up to 5 percent of tuition per credit hour to provide funds for just these kinds of investments, noted Garrison. Another recent project enabled by the fee was creation of the university’s Advanced Visualization Center (AVC) in the Math-Physics Building — the only facility of its kind in the state.


Also this summer, the lobby area on the library’s main floor is being transformed to accommodate a new “Jobs Hub,” where students can readily access information and resources for finding a job on campus or in the surrounding community. In addition, students will find a “Career Corner” in the nearby Starbucks distributing useful information on career options. Both areas are centrally located extensions of the Career Center.


Outside along the building’s south façade, an urban park is under development that will provide additional social green space on campus while linking the area with both the Collins Boulevard main entrance to the west and the Solar Rotary installation to the east. Highlights of Collins Park include large, sail-like sun shades, a water feature, and a mix of gathering spots including a “chill zone” for kicking back and relaxing with friends.


“We’re creating more memorable moments,” said Sandy Lovins, vice president for administrative services, who credits USF’s “firm, straightforward stand on student success” with prompting campus changes that not only affect academic programming, but also become points of institutional pride and tools for student recruitment.


“Survey after survey show students want a campus that they can be proud of, one that provides environmentally friendly places to study, meet with friends, or just unwind. Our students drive the changes we make on campus, whether it’s indoor or outdoor space. They are our number one top customer.”


Until recently, USF was hindered by an image of a modern, top-tier research university “with a lot of ’70s furniture,” added Lovins. Today, however, the university earns a solid B+ from students in a College Prowler poll. Asked about the quality of facilities in 15 specific areas from athletics/recreation and classrooms to study spots and visual arts spaces, reviewers rated USF highly in every category and populated the remarks section with accolades such as “top notch,” “wonderful,” “well-kept,” “high-tech,” “accessible,” and “eco-friendly.”


“It’s about building and maintaining an environment that students really can take pride in and feel a part of in an engaged way,” Lovins said. “Our feedback also indicates that when students feel better, parents feel better, faculty feel better, and our donors and alumni feel better about USF.”


Also on tap for work this summer:

-          renovations in Social Sciences

-          a graduate study suite in the College of Education

-          lecture hall makeovers in Behavioral Science

-          classroom refurbishing in Communication and Information Sciences


Most of the projects are scheduled for completion by the time students arrive on campus for the fall semester.


Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.