Future phases of the renovation will be more visible to users, and the results will more directly enhance their library experience. The mechanical, electrical, and telecommunications systems will help preserve the collections, enhance reading and study spaces, and provide state-of-the-art telecommunications capability.
A series of undergraduate reading rooms and services supporting the Columbia undergraduate curriculum will be housed on the second, third, and fourth floors. As a convenience to readers, the Circulation desk will be relocated adjacent to the library's main entrance. The third floor will become the center for Reference and Information Services, bringing currently scattered services together into the heart of the library.
Floors five through eight will comprise the discipline-based graduate and research library. In the library's core stacks, entrances will be opened to every floor, dramatically improving access to books.
Ultimately, the metaphor behind the layout, as Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian Elaine Sloan explains, is that ascending the levels of the renovated Butler Library will reflect, symbolically, "the progress by which undergraduates move from prescribed readings and librarian-assisted discovery to the independent search for information that characterizes upperclass and graduate-level study."
The renovation follows years of careful planning. For some time the campus community has recognized that Butler needs a major renovation. A 1987 Report of the Presidential Commission on the Future of Columbia University found the library's physical plant in need of extensive renewal to match "the richness of its collections." Subsequent to that report, a 1989 planning study confirmed that the building is clearly suffering from poor use of the existing space, as well as serious deterioration of its physical plant, an inability to accommodate new technologies, and inadequate facilities for services tailored to undergraduate instruction. The planning group emphasized that a renovation is called for in order to remedy all of these problems while still maintaining and highlighting the original architecture and craftsmanship of the library.
A vital part of the ongoing renovation process is the concerted effort that is being made to keep users and staff informed and provide fluid communication for everyone involved. Library staff presently receive daily e-mail notification of expected work, and signs are posted in the lobby and elevator waiting areas and other locations. In the works and coming soon are a bimonthly bulletin with an article of special interest, an illustrated exhibit for the library lobby, and a home page on the World Wide Web.