Cal Poly held a town hall to answer questions about the Kennedy Library renovation on Monday, May 15, 2023. Credit: Jessa Rosenthal | Mustang News

University staff held a town hall on May 15 to discuss the upcoming Kennedy Library renovation beginning on June 16 — which includes expanding 24-hour spaces, installing air conditioning, adding a Starbucks, adding 300 study spaces and more. 

Kennedy Library will close for the next two years with plans to open at the start of fall quarter 2025 as it undergoes a $78 million transformation project. Community members were invited to the town hall to share their comments and ask questions about the project.

The entire building will be shut down for the campus community’s safety and construction partners’ safety; however, the design team emphasized that all services will continue to operate in various locations across campus. 

“The team has been working to make sure that all of the services that are given in the library are relocated elsewhere, and supporting the students and faculty,” the library’s design manager, Tamara Strickland, said at the town hall. 

Students at the town hall expressed frustration about a future lack of desktop computers currently available in the library, including the 24-hour hub. The renovation team is still working with ASI to decide where computers will be housed during the renovation. 

“We know there’s a need [for computers],” renovation project manager Penny Sandman said.

However, once the build is complete, the new library will see computers dispersed throughout the first and second floors. 

Materials engineering junior Carolina Mejia uses the library computer hub almost daily and is concerned about the future computer placement post-renovation. 

“There are moments where you don’t want to really collaborate with others,” Mejia said. “I understand the aspect of trying to incorporate more of the collaborative side. I feel like just limiting quiet spaces to areas where there are no computers is really limiting that space to certain people,” Mejia said. 

To compensate for the loss of study spaces, the university plans to open up temporary study spaces that will seat 700 students, according to the renovation team.

One future temporary study spaces will be located in parking lot C7, adjacent to O’Neill Green at the corner of California Boulevard and North Perimeter Road. Another will be in parking lot H11 located next to Earhart Agriculture and the English building. Sandman, the renovation project manager, described these spaces as “enhanced wedding structures.”

These parking lots were chosen because of their access to WiFi and power. They will not cause a loss of parking because parking lot H11 has been out of use due to the Frost Center construction and C7 is not highly utilized at the moment, Cal Poly’s associate vice president for facilities management and development, Mike McCormick said in an interview with Mustang News. 

The 61 spots currently in lot C7 will be relocated to lots H12 and H16 to lessen the impact on staff parking spaces. Though those lots are where many commuter students park, the renovation team assured community members that there would not be any major parking losses.

These structures will be 10 feet tall with artificial turf to increase heating. Though there will not be a cooling system inside, fans can be brought in on an as-needed basis.

These new structures will be piloting software known as Occuspace — a technology that tracks the WiFi and Bluetooth usage in a given space, letting users know how busy an area is. 

Occuspace is a device that can be plugged into a wall and picks up on signal activity from laptops, cell phones and other connected devices estimating the number of people in a given area with “over 90 percent accuracy,” according to the company’s website.  

After the renovation, Cal Poly plans to implement Occuspace into the library so students can track the number of people there at any given time.  

The university plans to designate the Chandler and San Luis Lounge in the University Union (UU) as temporary study spaces as well. 

However, some students are worried that this is not enough room. 

“The UU is already so full while the library is still open,” microbiology sophomore Victoria Lancaster said at the town hall.

The university is also working with the registrar to locate potential groups of classrooms that are together on campus that can be unlocked for students to study in at any time. 

It was also mentioned at the town hall that some building hallways could accommodate extra study spaces. It was not confirmed which buildings those are.

Transformation plans now finalized

The most notable change in the library will be its new glass-enclosed staircase, McCormick told Mustang News. 

“It’s intended to really orient everybody to where they are in the library at all times because right now the library can be a little bit confusing,” McCormick said.

“We’re hoping to get a lot out of just removing it completely, regaining that additional space to the library, and then putting in a new main staircase closer to the east main entryway that stacks completely while upgrading the Eastern elevators,” Sandman said at the town hall. 

McCormick also mentioned that creating a new staircase instead of just upgrading is part of efforts to upgrade the library seismically.

The first floor will be undergoing the most major renovations with the addition of a Starbucks and all new layout.

Jullian’s Cafe and Bistro will be moving out of the second floor and into the upcoming 1901 Marketplace. The space where Julian’s is now will turn into extra study space. 

A new entrance will be located at the front right-hand side of the library where the new Starbucks will be placed so people can access the library straight from the bus stop.

The first and second floors will act as the new 24-hour study spaces, an upgrade from the current first-floor 24-hour hub. 

The entire library will receive “new finishes, new carpet, new paint and new lights, and a completely refreshed second floor,” McCormick said.”The third and fourth floors generally stay similar to what they are except just new finishes.”

One student at the town hall asked if loose or broken outlets would be fixed throughout the second to fifth floors. The staff said that there are currently no plans to upgrade the electrical or replace the current power outlets that do not work.

The library’s renovation aims to make the building more environmentally friendly while improving accessibility and comfort. 

One way the library will improve comfort is by improving climate control by adding air-conditioning and updating the exterior glaze, which will help cool the library. 

The library will also be increasing its capacity from 2,400 student study spaces to 2,700 student  study spaces, and additional classrooms will be included in the additional space cleared up by the new staircase, bringing the classroom space from 107 seats to 190 seats. 

The first-floor courtyard will be leveled out, removing the small steps to improve accessibility. Most of the plants will be maintained with some areas carved out for a more immersive landscape experience. 

This renovation was made possible by the $78-million budget allotted by the CSU Chancellor’s Office and campus funds, which were primarily donations. 

The renovation was originally scheduled before COVID-19, but funding was lacking because of the pandemic, and the build was pushed off until the university could secure the additional money, McCormick said.

“This has been the most extreme increase in cost, which is part of what has been such a challenge,” Design Manager Tamara Strickland said at the town hall. “When we came onto this project we were really trying to step back and look at all the different needs of the building. It’s a 40-year-old building infrastructure — it needs upgrades.”

Because of the increase in cost, some renovations to the library that were originally planned pre-COVID-19 will not be included. The scrapped ideas include additional entry and exits, new furniture and a full building transformation. Instead, the design team is focusing on changes they need to make while the entire building is shut down. 

Due to a limited budget for supplying some new furniture, the renovation team is planning on reusing the existing working furniture in the building. 

Mike McCormick and the renovation team are confident they will complete the renovation by the targeted building reopening,

“I can tell you we’re gonna hit the date, and I’m super confident about that,” McCormick said. 

McCormick said that instead of the typical contract setup that enforces penalties, the library has a unique contract and collaborative design system the university has not used before. The library contract incentivizes the staff’s performance, setting this renovation apart from other campus construction projects.  

“History has shown that the penalties in contracts are much less effective than creating incentives,” McCormick said. 

The library’s renovation is expected to be completed and ready for move-in by the start of fall quarter 2025.

Correction, May 23: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Tamara Strickland’s name.