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Founders Library Renovations Limit Study Spaces for Students

Restorations and repairs to Founders Library have caused students to express concern about the university’s lack of places to study on campus.

The library was originally built in 1937 and opened for service two years later. In 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named it a national treasure, making it the first site at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to be named as such. (Tionne Thornton/The Hilltop)

The famous clock tower that frames Howard’s Yard is now surrounded by scaffolding and caution tape, as restoration is underway. Founders Library, the oldest library on campus, is currently closed for renovations, which leaves many students searching for new, quiet study spots. 

Delritta Hornbuckle, the executive director of libraries at the university, confirmed that the Physical Facilities Management (PFM) department is currently working on several areas of the building.

According to Hornbuckle, the clock tower is being restored and is expected to be completed by late October. Renovations will include water damage repair, plaster repair, painting, new lighting, restored wood paneling and new carpet on the ground floor, first floor, third floor east and west stairwells and Room 300. Several rooms on the ground floor are also being repaired and documents in some rooms are being restored.

Timothy Millner, executive director of the PFM department, said that the library is still open for students despite the construction.

“My understanding is that Founders Library is still open, although some sections of the building have been closed off so that some renovations can be completed,” Millner said.

“I went in there once actually, but they were like ‘you can’t be in here, you gotta get out,’ and they didn’t let me go through,” Jadyn Hughes, a freshman marketing major said. 

Some freshmen are confused about the status of the library, considering it is many of their first times on campus. “I don’t know exactly what’s happening,” Hughes continued. With the library being under construction, some felt that they were missing out on a full campus experience.

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With Founders Library and the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library under renovation, some freshmen feel it gives an impression of an unprepared Howard. 

“It’s just making UGL [the Wayne A. I. Frederick Undergraduate Library] a lot more crowded and there’s less places for people to study. I’m outside right now, it’s kinda forcing people to go elsewhere,” Hughes said. “They had all summer to do this, it should’ve been done earlier.”

Currently, it is unclear when Founders Library will be open and available for students. 

The Hilltop reached out to Errol Watkis, the project and events manager of the libraries at the university for an updated schedule for Founders but received no response.

Founders Library is home to over 750,000 book and journal titles, digital resources, and 200+ databases, as well as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. (Tionne Thornton/The Hilltop)

Freshman finance major Ma’El Blunt from Oakland, California, recognized how the construction stopped him from being able to explore Howard the way he intended. The library has been under construction since he moved in.

“UGL is very crowded now, and in Founders there’s a lot of stuff I wanted to go look at, Howard memorabilia I want to enjoy and be able to see, but I can’t yet because of the construction,” Blunt said. 

Founders Library holds the Howard University Museum, the home to several of Howard’s archived relics and keepsakes.

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Both Blunt and Hughes find themselves studying in their dorms often due to the renovations.

“Howard is a great school, but it’s always going to have little cons here and there,” Blunt said. “But not being able to give students a place to study and do their work in a quiet environment is not that good.”

Elena Smith, a junior English major from Philadelphia, was also confused about the renovations and when they would be complete. 

“The students don’t know what’s going on, the teachers don’t know what’s going on,” Smith said. “There was one class I had where our professor told us to do a project inside of Founders and she didn’t know that they were doing construction on the library until the day of, and we had to redo our entire class schedule.”

For Smith, off-campus study locations are the only solution to the current lack of study spaces on campus.  

“UGL is always overrun because of the influx of freshmen and sophomores on campus and they keep closing down and locking the seminar rooms in Douglass [Hall] and Locke [Alain Locke Hall], so there’s no place to go on campus to study,” Smith continued. “If you have online classes during any point in the day, you can’t go anywhere. There would be people doing classes in the hallway, in the basement.”

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Hugh Goffinet, a senior history major, was aware that there were changes occurring, but not what they were, or why there is an extended wait time.

“iLab is small and is getting louder because Stokes is closed and UGL is just packed so there really aren’t any other quiet alternatives because it was really just Founders and Stokes,” Goffinet said, referring to what he believes are the two quiet places on campus to study. 

The senior from Southern Oklahoma now just has to “suck it up and try to find a room in Locke” or any other classroom that may be available, which is hard for him, as they are in constant use for lessons. 

The Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library has now been reopened for students to study and complete work since Monday, Sept. 25, according to the library’s website. 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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