UMBC expects $20 million tower to be a library worth looking up Renovated site attracts public, not just students

November 06, 1995|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

The University of Maryland Baltimore County wants to see many more people than just students on campus.

UMBC officials hope that with the opening of the newly renovated Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, their neighbors from Catonsville and beyond will use the facility, including walk-up computer access to the Internet's World Wide Web and a catalog of more than 1.5 million books, journals and other items in the University of Maryland system.

"We look at this library as a resource not just for the campus, but for everyone," said Larry Wilt, the Kuhn director. "It doesn't cost us more for people to come in and use it."

For a $15 annual fee, the public can borrow books. The privilege is available at a reduced fee for high school students, alumni, parents of UMBC students and spouses of staff.

The university has planned a "MindFest" celebration Friday and Saturday to introduce the public to the library's new look -- a $20 million, seven-story tower of glass, concrete, aluminum and granite, built behind and connected to the original library.

Events will include workshops, a photo exhibit, drama presentations and forums.

The tower is the final phase of a planned three-step construction of the library, which began with the west wing that opened with the college campus in 1968.

"To tie the two in together was a big challenge," said David Benn, principal architect on the project. "The tower had to become a landmark for the campus."

The tower adds 131,000 square feet and allows for the books to be moved to the center of the building, away from the light, and sitting areas to be moved toward lighted areas, Mr. Benn said.

Mr. Wilt said the library is now wired to support more than 1,000 computers and telecommunication hookups, with the potential to add more. The media area has CD-ROMS, videos and audiotapes as well as microfilm and microfiche collections.

Library users will have access to the Internet and holdings of the 13 libraries on the 11 campuses that are part of the university system. "We are more than ready to dive into the information age," Mr. Wilt said.

The library boasts a rare feature -- copy machines with a credit-card slot.

Aesthetically, the new library tower is very different from the original building.

Shelf space has been doubled and more rooms have been added for private study. On a clear day, downtown Baltimore can be seen from the windows of the higher floors.

The university's art gallery, which had been part of the library's lobby, was enclosed, with better lighting and more space. The gallery will be the site for a special "MindFest" showing of "Fields of Vision: Women in Photography."

Tom Beck, chief curator for the gallery, said the new library is perfect for showcasing the university's holdings, which include more than 1 million photographs and slides.

"It's a great leap forward for the library," Mr. Beck said. "It offers a tremendous advantage to the staff, the students and the community."

Information on the "MindFest" schedule of events can be obtained by calling 455-2902, or Internet at the Web site http://www.umbc.edu/home/mindfest.html.

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