Alumnus coordinates library renovations


Photo courtesy of Neal Sellers of Bartos Architecture

Glass whiteboards, private conference/study rooms, additional power outlets and a sound-reinforced multi-purpose room for podcast production are four of the new features that will be available in the renovated Lowell library beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Improvements to the library will be made over the summer, according to librarian Steven Sasso. Lowell administrators, library staff, representatives from the Lowell Alumni Association and the San Francisco Unified School District discussed options for the renovation over the last year. Lowell students also offered input through a February 2018 online survey conducted by Sasso.

The idea to renovate the library came about after SFUSD announced plans for a campus-wide upgrade of Lowell, which includes renovations in flooring, lighting, windows and shades. Piggybacking on SFUSD’s basic infrastructure improvements, the Lowell Alumni Association decided to expand the project to include additional renovations to the library. Members of the Lowell Alumni Association are hoping to raise $750,000 for the renovation.

Photo courtesy of Neal Sellers of Bartos Architecture

SFUSD has contracted Neal Sellers of Bartos Architecture for the design work and Lowell parent Beth O’Leary of Campbell Keller for furniture design and interior planning, according to Lowell Alumni Association vice president for planning and development Mark Budak.

The goal of the renovation is to make the library a more functional space for students to both work together and study quietly, according to Sasso. “A lot of the ideas have to do with large study areas, but also places for students to be able to talk and collaborate [and] to study quietly,” he said. “I think the study rooms and some of the technology we have in there will make it more intentional.”

While Sasso is eager for a refurbished library, he is not entirely convinced that the renovated library will be open at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. “We’re hoping they’ll be done in the summer,” Sasso said. “Most likely they won’t be done because realistically, that’s how contracting jobs go.”

If the library is not ready to be opened to students at the beginning of the school year, Sasso plans to set up a makeshift library in the area outside of the Carol Channing Theater. “That’s the best we can do,” he said. “It’s an imposition, but that’s what happens when you renovate.”

Photo courtesy of Neal Sellers of Bartos Architecture

Library traditionalists also may be disappointed to learn that a good amount of the book collection will need to be removed to make room for the addition of private conference rooms. However, Sasso sees this situation as an opportunity to organize and reassess the contents of the library. “A lot of the books have to be removed this year to make space, but I’m okay with that because less books that are more frequently used is better than more books that are never used,” said Sasso. “We’re not an archive for every single book you could possibly want.”

With the upgrade, Sasso says there is one thing that will remain the same—the core role and purpose of Lowell librarians. “[The librarians are] still managers of the space,” Sasso said. “We’re still reaching out and working as a hub in the whole school for guiding research and supporting academics, inviting spaces for clubs and for CSF tutoring and all the student support services. So, it won’t change anything.”