Roof Work at Clemons Library will Lead to Refurbished Public Space

November 12, 2007
Nov. 9, 2007 — Workers are replacing the library's third-floor roof, which doubles as the Clemons Plaza, an outdoor sitting area adjacent to the library's public entrance that links the Clemons, Alderman and the Harrison/Small libraries.

Clemons Library — named in honor of Harry Clemons, the University Librarian from 1927 to 1950 — was dedicated on April 13, 1982 and features a terraced design. Patrons enter on the fourth floor, with the plaza outside serving as the roof for a large portion of the third floor, which juts out northward. Steps from the plaza lead to terraces around the third and second floors, which similarly double as roofs for the levels below.

Once the roof work is done, landscapers will spruce up the plaza with potted trees, new lights and new furniture, with all the work on the plaza slated to be complete by graduation 2008. Until then, a temporary entrance to Clemons Library has been created at the Newcomb Hall side of the building.

"We're always trying to provide great spaces for our students," said Charlotte Morford, director of communications for the University Library system. "Clemons Plaza is a great location that has suffered from not having adequate shade or seating. This will transform a popular space into a beautiful space that is usable for students and anyone visiting the libraries."

The roof, which has a rubber membrane to keep the water from seeping through and a series of drains to remove the water, dates back to the building's original construction. It has exhausted its useful life, said Ernest H. Barber, the project manager for the roof replacement.

"There was some leakage into the library," Barber said. "As [the membrane] ages, it gets brittle. Any roof has to be replaced in a predictable cycle."

Barber said the paving stones that make up the walking surface of the plaza have been removed. Drainage pipes that carry water away from the roof will be repaired, and new water lines, to carry water to the new plantings in the plaza, will be installed, as will electric wires for the new lights.

Since the roof must be exposed to replace the membrane, Barber said that it would be replaced in sections, and if it rains then the open section will be covered.

"If all the roofs are around 17,000 square feet, only about 600 square feet will be replaced at a time," Barber said.

Updated insulation and roofing materials may lead to an energy savings, he said.

Once the main roof is finished, workers will replace the smaller roofs on the library's lower levels.

After the roof work, the plaza itself will be dressed up. Mary Hughes, landscape architect for the University, said there would be trees in pots, new furniture and lights on standards.

"We're not sure what kind of trees yet," Hughes said. "They should be small to withstand the wind." The trees also must be able to survive in a planter.

While the final plan is still pending, the plaza was originally designed for potted trees. Support pillars are in place to carry the weight of the trees.

The construction site is surrounded by a wood fence, painted green, with observation holes cut into the boards so passers-by can watch the work as it happens. The fence panels have also become the canvas of the Renegade Poets Society, which has chalked verse on each one.