A Peek Behind the Fences: Inside Alderman Library’s Renovations

January 4, 2021 By Anne E. Bromley, anneb@virginia.edu Anne E. Bromley, anneb@virginia.edu

Major renovation of the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library will continue throughout 2021 and 2022. Preparation got underway last January, and not long after the coronavirus pandemic closed the Grounds in March, the project began in earnest. The new and old stacks were demolished over the summer.

Hard-hatted workers have stripped the building down to its bones, reinforcing parts of the structure as they bring it up to modern codes and standards.

A more user-friendly and energy-efficient library is expected to reopen in 2023. Get more information here.

Here’s what the library looked like in early December as the fall semester drew to a close. UVA photographer Sanjay Suchak captured some of the painstaking efforts as workers slowly transform the mid-20th-century structure into a library equipped for the 21st century.

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Construction workers framing up a wall of Alderman Library
Construction workers are building a new, concrete “shear wall” to meet building codes and to keep the building strong and sound for future generations.
The McGregor Room being protected by plastic in the Alderman Library
The McGregor Room – nicknamed by students as the “Harry Potter Room” – has been partially dismantled and protected, with much of the original material being saved to restore the room as closely as possible to its original look and use.
Looking out from where a circle window is observing construction of the Alderman Library
A lift supports welders as they install bracing in the courtyard. The project will set skylights over these courtyards and turn them into study courts. All four walls will stay, but the building just north of this wall, on right, is being demolished for the new addition to be built.
Construction worker framing new walls in Alderman Library
Workers in the space between the Preservation Services Department and the room below install reinforcements in the big open area that was created when the floors were demolished. The renovation will situate the conservation and preservation labs next to each other. The Rare Book School and the Bibliographical Society of UVA will also be on this floor, creating an area that is devoted to the care and preservation of the book.
Gutted hallway in the Alderman Library
The third-floor walkway to the stacks. The Taylor and Garnett rooms will be restored on this level, as will the graduate student lounge. The third floor will also be outfitted with varied study and research space, plus compact shelving for general collections.
Room in the Alderman Library that has exposed wood ceiling and exposed brick walls
The third floor also will feature the University’s digital humanities resources. Located there will be the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities; the Sciences, Humanities, and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives; and the Scholars’ Lab, including its makerspace.
Construction workers using a machine to dig out dirt at the alderman renovation
As the stacks portion of the building is torn down, the lateral loads on the building are altered, Facilities Management Senior Project Manager Kit Meyer wrote in an email. “These workers are installing soil nails to relieve lateral pressure on the remaining historic building. Once the new addition is built and the two buildings become one, these are no longer required, but will be left in place.”
Metal beam stick up in a room that is dark in the Alderman Renovation
Radiators lay discarded in what used to be the stacks.
Puddle in Alderman Library reflects the barebones ceiling above it as you look the long room to see the empty walls and ceiling
A small puddle of water reflects part of the empty space in Alderman – here where the west wing has been demolished to bare concrete. Formerly home to the Scholars’ Lab, this area will house circulation and other staff after the renovation.
gutted ceiling and ladders in a room that has been completely gutted in the Alderman Library Renovation project
The old reference room, which will remain on the fourth floor, still has the walls intact, but everything else has been removed. A large North Reading Room will be added to this floor. An expanded south entrance to Alderman will lead into Memorial Hall, complete with a service desk, seating areas, general collections and classrooms.
Construction worker on the roof of the Alderman Library
A worker adjusts his safety harness while working on the roof of Alderman Library. The completely renovated library is scheduled to reopen in spring 2023.

Media Contact

Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications