Rescued from the bowels of Boylston Hall, students who frequent the Language Lab will enjoy faster, computerized services, more comfortable chairs and a view of the Yard when the sixth floor of Lamont Library becomes a linguistic penthouse next year.
In the planning for years, the lab's move will be accompanied by the digitizing of its most frequently used tapes so they can be run from a huge, 1,000-gigabyte server, improving sound quality and eliminating competition over what is now a limited number of tapes.
Ergonomically adjustable versions of the carrels now in Boylston's basement, each with a networked computer, will line the windowed walls, giving students instant access to their exercises as well as to other software.
With more floor space, the lab will offer expanded services such as international broadcasts with wireless headphones; reading areas with lounging chairs and foreign periodicals; video viewing rooms; space designed for practicing foreign-language skits; and speech-to-text software for students who are unable for medical reasons to type their papers.
While music tapes and compact discs will not be transferred to the network, the sound equipment used to play them will be upgraded.
And the color orange--objected to by students in a February survey of the current lab--will not be seen in this, the uberlab.
"We want it to be significantly better for the students," said Robert G. Doyle, director of Instructional Media Services, who oversees the lab.
The new technology will replace cassette decks that date from 1977 and carrels that date from 1959.
Students received the news with fluent praise.
"The things that are there [now] are often broken, and it would save a lot of time--you wouldn't have to go up to the desk," said Salvatore Gogliormella '98, calling the current lab "kind of like a dungeon."
While most students were content with Lamont as the new location, some balked at a few added inconveniences.
"It's definitely not as convenient," said Melissa J. Gambol '99. "Climbing stairs and having to empty your backpack is annoying, I suppose."
The lab will employ a specialist to assist faculty in gearing their curricula to the new technology.
As a longer-term goal, Doyle hopes to make sound files accessible to houses and dormitories via the University's network.
Preserving the current lab's hours, Lamont will open its doors at 8 a.m., instead of 8:45 a.m., Monday through Saturday, and hours may even be extended further.
"Let's hope this is a precedent," Gogliormella said, joined by many others who called for later hours.
As a result of the reduced classroom space, Lamont officials expect a reduction in the between-class rush.
"We'll be really sorry to see that go," joked Jon A. Lanham '70, associate librarian of Lamont.
"We've got a lot of people who want to come in earlier, a lot of early birds, and I think this will help," he said of the new opening time.
Construction is scheduled to begin June 6, the day after Commencement, and should finish by the beginning of the next term, leaving the fall semester for installation. If all goes according to plan, students will be able to use the lab during the spring of 1998, though the entire project will take two to three years to complete.
The renovation, funded by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) capital campaign, was approved years ago by then-dean of the FAS Michael A. Spence.
The move of the language lab is part of a larger renovation scheduled for Boylston in connection with the renovations of the Barker Center for the Humanities. After the lab moves, five humanities departments will be housed in Boylston