Entryway meetings and smoking breaks on the vaunted steps of Widener Library will come to a halt next week, and the Class of 2006 will have to wait a full year to walk up the temporary wooden steps that are installed every winter to prevent library users from slipping on the ice.
All visitors to Widener will have to enter through the Mass. Ave. door after the front entrance and steps close Oct. 19 due to renovations on the first floor. The work requiring the closing of the front steps, intended to modernize the library, is expected to last six months.
Improvements to the north section of the first floor, which faces Harvard Yard, will include redesigned office spaces, improved fire suppression, security and heating, ventilation and cooling systems, a new guard desk and permanent turnstiles, said library spokesperson Beth S. Brainard.
Brainard said the closing of the much larger main entrance will cause traffic jams around the temporary entrance.
“Entering isn’t really a problem, but exiting at peak hours is,” Brainard said. “We’ll ask the staff to use the [east] exit to avoid having huge lines at 5 p.m. or 11 p.m. We do realize that this is going to cause some congestion at the doorway, privileges and circulation.”
“It’s going to be a rush in this area,” agreed Muhammad R. Shams, a security guard at the Mass. Ave. entrance. “The lobby here is very small.”
Students said they were not thrilled with the prospect of entering through the library basement.
“I just think it’s inconvenient,” said Sherra T. Wong ’05. “I don’t know how long the construction has been going on, and you don’t know how to get from one floor to the other.”
The library will place sets of colored footprints on the floor leading to circulation and the periodicals reading room, and will also give out maps at the entrance to help visitors navigate the temporary layout, Brainard said.
The steps facing the Yard will become a staging area for the construction, and will be cordoned off by chain link fencing and green netting like that which is currently covering parts of the side of the library.
“I’m going to miss the stairs, and the wooden stairs in the winter,” said Koray S. Durak, a second-year graduate student.
“I think it’s a shame,” said Schuyler R. Louapre, a tourist from New Orleans. “It will change the look of the Yard.”
The partition will go up a few days prior to the closure of the front entrance, and students will have to go through a gate to get in until the front door closes for good on Oct. 19.
Offices currently in the space slated for renovations will move to temporary locations during the six-month construction period. Circulation and the stacks entrance will move to the east wing space behind the stairway on the first floor.
The periodicals reading room and stacks will remain open, but they will be accessible only via the back stairway. These areas will be available through the main elevator by Nov. 18.
“The elevator is ready, but we are really at the mercy of the building inspector,” Brainard said.
“We had hoped they would be here before now, but it didn’t work out that way,” she said.
After this phase is completed, construction will begin on a microtext center in the south end of the first floor, and then on the second floor, Brainard said.
The entire project will be complete in 2004, she said.