Library West renovation concept art

Library West is about to get a facelift.

The current colonnade, the covered brick structure outside the entrance, will undergo a $1.5 million upgrade, involving solar-powered chargers, tables and study lighting.

Barbara Hood, director of library communications, said fundraising will begin in the next few months and will continue until they have enough to begin building.

She said the start date will all depend on when the money is done being raised, but once it begins, it should be completed in about 77 days.

The current colonnade will be partially taken down and then rebuilt to be taller and narrower than the existing one, which covers the historic entrance to Smathers Library, Hood said.

In the middle of the new colonnade there will be a statue of a gator, similar to the one outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

As it stands now, students lounge on the colonnade itself. In the new design, the floor will be expanded to allow for tables and benches.

But Rebekah Fitzsimmons a 30-year-old UF English Ph.D candidate, likes to sit on the colonnade. She leans back on one of the pillars as she talks.

Fitzsimmons isn’t sure the colonnade is what UF should be putting $1.5 million toward.

"It definitely looks dated," she said, looking around at the colonnade.

It isn’t a waste of money to improve the colonnade, she said, but there are higher priorities.

People have done the math and found it would only take $6 million to waive fees for graduate students, she said.

She thinks $1.5 million would be better served if it went toward that.

Victoria Fitts, a 21-year-old UF linguistics junior, could only ask why when she heard about the construction plans.

"That’s a complete waste of money," she said.

The colonnade is fine, and when you walk up to Smathers, you can clearly see the entrance, she said.

She said she wonders what work on the colonnade will do to people trying to get into the library.

"I think if there’s anything they’re gonna do, they should make Library West bigger," she said.

Construction at the entrance will just add to the congestion, and it’s already so crowded, she said.

"There’s a million better things that money can go to," she said.

[A version of this story ran on pages 1 - 4 on 8/5/2014 under the headline "Library West renovation will revamp colonnade"]