The planning has taken years.
The construction took another two years.
People worked night and day to put everything together.
The final result?
A library that has enough space for students to study and a space big enough to hold its growing collection of materials, including the largest Cuban Heritage collection outside of Cuba, soon to be housed in a new Cuban Heritage Pavilion.
“[Construction] has been going on for the last three and a half years,” Jane Schillie, head of research and educational services, said. “For some students, it’s the entire time they have been here, but now the end is in sight.”
“About half of the first floor is done now. . . and is all expected to be done by February,” Schillie said.
The renovations to the first floor include a “new books” reading section, a place to store current periodicals, a new circulation and reserves desk, and an office area for the library employees.
The information commons will be twice as big as it is now and there will be a new entrance. Also, 80 new computers will be installed in the computer labs.
The renovations cost the University approximately $17 million.
This excludes the Cuban Heritage Pavilion, which is funded by several donors, including Elena Diaz-Verson Amos, who donated $1 million in 1994 to the Cuban Heritage Archives.
The money was left untouched until recently, when the Goizuta Foundation, the family foundation of Roberto C. Goizuta who was the CEO of Coca-Cola, donated $2.5 million to the building of the pavilion.
The Fanjul Family, the family of Florida Crystals, one of the largest sugar growers in the state, donated half a million dollars to the project.
According to those involved in the renovation, a major concern was the noise that the construction would bring to the campus.
“We have worked with our construction foreman and the architect to make sure when they need to keep the noise to a minimum,” Schillie said, “and they try very hard to do the really noisy work at night or on the weekends.”
“We keep earplugs at the reference desk in case anyone complains,” Schillie said.
Opinions about the construction vary among students.
“The amount of noise was so much I had to make sure I found a table at the opposite side of campus,” said Kevin O’Donnell. “They should have done it during the summer and when class was out – I am not against the changes, but students need to study and they need quiet in order to do that.”
“I’m really glad that the University has taken on the initiative to listen to our concerns about the need for improvements at Richter,” said junior Lacey Hickle. “I think that we will all stop complaining once we realize how beneficial all of these changes will be.”
The Roberto C. Goizuta Cuban Heritage Pavilion, which will be the new home for the Cuban Heritage Collection, is one of the many changes to the library.
The Cuban collection was started when the University opened but grew immensely when two Cuban exiles, Rosa M. Abella and Ana Rosa Nunez, came to UM as librarians in the 1950s.
“I like to call them the pioneers,” said Esperanza de Varona, the head of the Cuban Heritage Collection.
“Our collection consists of books, archive material, like photographs, posters, maps and then a large collection of periodicals from colonial times to the present,” said Maria Estorino, the project archivist for the collection.
According to Estorino, the collection has been stored in three separate locations because of lack of space.
The pavilion will have marble floors, a large conference room and a reading room where people can read and research the materials.
“The pavilion will create a space where we can make the material available to the public,” Estorino said.
Jorge Rodriguez Grarrocas, the project manager for the pavilion, said that overall construction has gone smoothly except for the finalization of the building permit which delayed the start of the construction for five months.
Then, during the construction, the City of Coral Gables realized that the original design of the building violated a design ordinance, a detail which they had missed when they issued the permit.
The Cuban Heritage Pavilion will be open on Oct. 15. The dedication of the Cuban Heritage Pavilion will be on Jan. 28, 2002.
The grand opening for the entire library is being planned for the spring.
“The main thing people who work here would like to get out is that we appreciate the fact that all the students have been so patient with this and that it’s almost over,” Schillie said.