Library with a conscience

Library with a conscience McGill University

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McGill Reporter
November 9, 2006 - Volume 39 Number 06
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Library with a conscience

One of the best 100th birthday presents McGill's Macdonald Campus gave itself this year was the gift of a new — or at least markedly improved — library. The day after the final exam was written in May, the Barton Building on Mac campus was transformed into a dusty, noisy construction zone as books were hauled out, furniture was removed and walls were torn apart for the massive job of rewiring the space into a thoroughly modern, technologically rigged library. "I had no idea, until the opening, how tight a timeline we'd stuck to," marveled head librarian Erica Burnham. "It seemed desperate at times but everyone did a great job."

Caption follows
At the Macdonald Campus Library, environmentalism extends right down to the walls, carpets and furniture, thanks to the initiatives of green-minded students and head librarian Erica Burnham (pictured above).
Owen Egan

Everyone included the 30 students who were hired to help unpack 6,500 boxes of books in precisely the right order so that they could land directly on the shelves where they belonged. "They were extremely dedicated," said James Ranjitsingh, circulation clerk. "Without them, it wouldn't have been so smooth."

Although the opening was delayed about a month, it is small wonder when one considers the added touches that make this library so decidedly Mac. "The carpet comes from a company dedicated to recycling and reducing the toxic waste associated with the chemicals used in carpet material," said Burnham. "They're 18-inch tiles and they stick together by friction, not glue. It's the most eco-friendly carpet you can have." As well, new tables were made from wood certified to have been harvested from responsible forests.

Other environmental improvements along more aesthetic lines include the replacement of fluorescent lighting with suspended fixtures that cast light upwards and a more neutral colour scheme of earth tones - a radical departure from the 70s orange and green that was there.

Perhaps the most significant renovation was the construction of the walkway linking the library with the Macdonald-Stewart Building. A mere few months ago, the two buildings were linked by an underground link, inconvenient for most and all but impassable for users in wheelchairs. Now, the wide, naturally lit corridor invites a free flow of people that mirrors the free-flowing ideas hopefully inspired by Barton's new feel.

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