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Friday, August 12, 2022

Janelle Roberts posed for a picture with George Smathers Friday.

Smathers was only there as a black-and-white cardboard cutout, but Roberts, a 21-year-old UF microbiology and cell science senior, smiled wide for the photo and received free items from Smathers Library.

The libraries gave away free T-shirts, pencils, water bottles and other items to grab students’ attention of plans to renovate the Library West colonnade.

The renovation will bring tables and benches to the colonnade, Dean of University Libraries Judith Russell said.

The new space will also be home to a skylight, ceiling fans and charging stations at tables and along the brick walls. All the electricity will be solar-powered.

Roberts said she didn’t know much about the renovation before Friday.

"There’s already a lot of people who hang out around Plaza of the Americas and eat there and try to study there," she said. "It’ll make it more convenient."

While the $1.4 million project does not have a start or end date yet, Russell said the library is making progress on finding donors. Once the money comes in, the project will be completed in about 77 days.

A few donors are interested, but no commitments have been made yet, she said.

"If you observe the colonnade, you’ll see that it’s actively used by students, but there’s no seating, no power," Russell said. "The idea that we could use that space effectively and deliberately for outdoor gathering and study space seems really appealing."

Russell said the renovations will only disrupt student traffic around the library during the first few days of demolition. After that, the colonnade will be built in sections so that one part will always be open for students to access the library.

Lara David, 19, a UF civil engineering freshman, sat with her back against a colonnade column.

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She said $1.4 million is a lot of money to spend, but she’s looking forward to having more study space.

"If it’s good quality, I think it’s worth it," she said.

Contact Alexandra Fernandez at afernandez@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @alexmfern

This photo is a rendering of the new Library West colonnade and displays the new renovations, which will cost $1.4 million.

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