Oct. 21, 1999
Pataki Cheers UAlbany's Growth at New Library Ribbon Cutting
by Vinny Reda
Gov. George Pataki joined President Karen R. Hitchcock at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony that formally unveiled the University's new library on Tuesday in the Library Atrium.
State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assemblyman John McEneny spoke at the morning event, which celebrated the first new academic building on campus in 30 years.
“This magnificent new library is just one example of the historic investments we are making in the SUNY system, one of the finest university systems in America,” said Governor Pataki to an assembled crowd of guests and media. “This state-of-the-art facility is a very concrete symbol of the intellectual resources available at the University at Albany and throughout the State University system. It is truly a 21st century resource for students, faculty, citizens of the region, and scholars from New York State and around the world.”
The project also marks an important private-public partnership. New York State provided $26.6 million to construct and equip the new library, but the University is currently engaged in a $3.5 million campaign for private support that will fully coordinate and upgrade all three of the campus's libraries.
“For those of us at the University who have seen this project grow from an inspiration based on critical need to an exceptional academic facility affording limitless educational opportunity, today is a day of enormous gratitude - gratitude to all who have made the 14-year-long endeavor possible,” said President Hitchcock.
A multipurpose building, the new library contains the University's half-million volume Science Library; the University's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning; and laboratory facilities for instructional technology. The 142,430 square-foot, five-story facility also houses electronic multimedia workshops and seminar rooms; more than 500 seats for users; the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives; and the Library Preservation and Digital Imaging Laboratory.
“We planned our newest library building to be an inviting, beautiful and functional facility in which students and faculty may pursue research, discovery and collaborative learning with ease,” Meredith Butler, dean and director of Libraries, said last week. “It was designed to serve both analog and digital needs and it should do that very well.”
A decade ago, the campus realized that the Main and Dewey facilities were not equipped to face the new challenges of the modern library. The growth and transformation of information technology required new space and facilities for such features as on-line databases and integrated Internet access, and a campus whose student body had doubled since 1967 needed expanded library facilities of all types.
“With its advanced technology, its ubiquitous electric and data connections, its increased access to information resources, and its mix of individual and group study spaces and meeting rooms, the new library building should meet faculty and student needs well into the next century,” said Butler.
Still, a challenge remains to complete the project. Although the cost of the new structure was allocated by the Legislature, a campaign for an additional $3.5 million in private support was launched last year. Its goal is to provide equipment and technology that will lift and coordinate the levels of all the University Libraries to the most modern and efficient capacity possible.
Approximately $2.3 million has been raised in the campaign thus far. The rest is within reach, because the Kresge Foundation has pledged $500,000 toward the $3.5 million goal - but only if $3 million is raised by Dec. 31 of this year. The push toward that final $700,000 in private funding is therefore now being made with renewed vigor.
"Smart Classroom" Come On-Line
by Carol Olechowski
Equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media tools, four new “smart classrooms” came on-line this semester, allowing faculty and students to tap a richer range of learning resources.
The new classrooms - Lecture Center 25, Fine Arts 126, Earth Science 242, and Performing Arts Center 264 - are the first at Albany to be funded through a three-year, $3.6 million grant from New York State and are designed to serve as models for ongoing classroom upgrades. Explains Associate Provost Carlos Santiago: “We don't want all classrooms rendered the same way. We want models for LC's that seat 200 students, classrooms that seat 30, and spaces for special activities.”
State legislators advanced the Smart Classroom initiative a few years ago in an effort to upgrade the use of multimedia in education. A grant was awarded to the State University of New York system; Albany received a portion of that funding, which was earmarked for multi-media, computers, and room renovation projects that would support the enhancements, rather than for staff, maintenance, or other day-to-day operational needs.
Three of the projects approved for 1998-99 called for multimedia upgrades for LC-25, FA-126, and ES-242, and rehabilitation of the latter two rooms. The fourth - a joint initiative of the theatre, music, and art departments - incorporated new hardware, software, electrical upgrades, and other enhancements into a computer classroom (PAC-264) and three satellite studios.
The multimedia upgrades for LC-25, FA-126 and ES-242 included new sound systems; computers; video projectors; slide projectors; VCRs; and document cameras, or visualizers. According to the Academic Computing Center's Peter Connolly, project coordinator, each of the devices functions “by means of a Creston System touch pad, enabling an instructor to dim the lights, lower the projection screen, and operate the audiovisual or computing equipment from a special podium.” Specific equipment, he explains, “differs according to the size of the individual room. For example, as a lecture center, LC-25 requires much more powerful rear-projection video and speaker systems and a larger sound system than would a small classroom.”
In addition to upgrading the rooms' multimedia capabilities, the project called for the rehabilitation of the Fine Arts and Earth Science spaces. The FA-126 renovation included installation of tiered seating; a new electronic podium; a projector cabinet; and an acoustical ceiling equipped with multiple-level general illumination and specialized fiber optic spot lighting. A swipe-card access mechanism was installed, as were new white boards and blackout shades; modifications were also made to the electrical, heating, and ventilation systems.
Similar renovations were made to ES-242, with the exception of the tiered seating; the more traditional tablet-arm chairs were placed in that room. New carpeting and an acoustical wall panel were also installed.
Equipment installed for the PAC project, said Connolly, included 12 inch Macintosh G3s, special graphics boards, a PC projector, computer pen tablets, midi keyboards, various printers and scanners, digital cameras and a variety of software geared toward music, theater and art. The studio station for each of these disciplines consisted of new computers, re-writable CD drives, printers, scanners, and digitizer tablets.
“We made an effort to standardize equipment across these projects to facilitate training and maintenance,” Connolly added.
Plans for the upgrades, noted Santiago, were actually being made before Albany received the legislative appropriation. The Smart Classroom Committee, originally known as the Classroom Design Committee, consists of 15 faculty and staff who are well acquainted with both University facilities and academic needs. That knowledge served them well in determining which projects would be undertaken during 1998-99. The expertise of the Physical Plant staff came into play, too: They drew up schematics for wiring, flooring, and other improvements necessary to support the equipment to be installed in each facility.
Generally, project costs “are running from $100,000 to $200,000 a room, but they vary,” says Santiago. The Smart Classroom Committee “originally budgeted more than $200,000 for FA-126, while the individual studio stations were under $20,000 each. The committee is not prepared to use half its budget on one room.” The Performing Arts classroom cost about $79,300 to complete, while costs for the three studios ranged from $11,200 to $15,140. Actual construction and equipment expenses for the Fine Arts and Earth Science classrooms amounted to about $160,000 and $105,000, respectively; the LC-25 upgrade totaled nearly $67,500.
Aside from establishing facilities on which to model future projects, the committee sought to fund projects “that faculty really wanted and that students would use,” Santiago notes. “Unless you have the right tools in place, people will just be frustrated and not use them.” The smart classrooms, he emphasizes, “have been used at full capacity, and the faculty are thrilled about that.”
In fact, Connolly points out, “all of the facilities were in use the first day of classes, although some of the hardware and other equipment came in over the next two weeks. The blackout curtains for FA-126, for example, were caught in Hurricane Floyd when the roof blew off the warehouse in North Carolina; they arrived October 4. So, except for some very minor items, everything is now complete.”
Connolly and Santiago both credit Dave Long of Audio Visual Services, Marianne Simon of CAS Computing Services, and the Physical Plant's Dave Ono with doing much of the work to make the smart classrooms a reality. “It was a tremendous effort to coordinate all of these projects and still have the rooms open the first day of classes,” Connolly observes.
Later this month, the Smart Classroom Committee will consider another round of proposals and select a number of projects for completion during 1999-2000.