This semester will bring a new look to Newman Library — one that is designed to make the library easier and more comfortable for patrons.

Changes are evident just inside the main entrance, with a temporary wall allowing for the construction of an expanded Special Collections Department on the first floor. When finished, the expanded area will include a larger, more comfortable reading room, office space for Digital Library and Archives employees, and greater shelf space for special collections, which include archival materials and photographs.

"I'm so pleased that we are able to take this initial step in addressing the issues of space, comfort, and accessibility that our students have told us are important as they use the library," said Eileen Hitchingham, dean of University Libraries. "We have an exciting plan for Newman that responds to patrons' needs, and we hope the university community will be following our progress."

Services provided by the reference desk, formerly located to the right of the main entrance, have been split in two. The new welcome desk is located to the immediate left of the entrance, and the reference and research desk is now on the second floor.

Welcome desk attendants, on duty all hours the library is open, will provide answers for brief, factual questions. Librarians at the second-floor reference and research desk will provide extensive research help, including aid for students working on papers and assignments. This assistance will be available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday. When the reference and research desk is closed, staff will help library patrons at the welcome desk or at the fourth-floor information and assistance desk located at the Torgersen Bridge library entrance.

The Special Collections Reading Room will be open during its normal hours on weekdays and may be entered via the short hallway opposite the Maps Department on the main floor. The Rare Book Collection will be relocated for the renovation. E-mail requests for books in advance to specref@vt.edu or call 231-6308 to minimize waiting time once you are at Newman Library.

Many of the public computers that formerly occupied the first floor are now located near the second-floor reference and research desk across from the elevators. The rest of the first-floor computers are in the second floor's northwest corner, the part of the building closest to the intersection of Alumni Mall and Drillfield Drive. Most of the computers will remain on the second floor when the renovation is completed.

The browse-books and new-books sections are now in the space between the circulation desk and the first-floor restrooms.

The Special Collections Department expansion, expected to begin in February and be completed this summer, is supported by gift and general funds and is the first step in a major renovation plan for the library. One of the goals of the University Libraries' Strategic Plan is to provide the university community with library settings that support expressed needs for convenient access to collections, places for inquiry and reflection, and inviting environments. Concepts are outlined in the Modernization Master Plan for Newman Library, developed in 2000 by the architecture firm of Moseley, Harris, & McClintock. The architectural renderings of this plan are on display in the library lobby.

Work also has begun on three group rooms on the fourth floor that will be completed around the end of February. Construction crews will add a new fourth-floor study lounge later this year that will have a more inviting, comfortable atmosphere for individual or group study. The Parents' Fund has provided $200,000 for study rooms and new computers.