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SU Lib to open at gym, admin explains rationale

by Shay Du | February 19, 2023

Silliman University (SU) Library relocated facilities to the SU Gymnasium and will open for use on Feb. 20, Monday, amid discussions within the SU community.

The relocation came as a result of the planned renovation of the SU Main Library, which started on Feb. 17 and is scheduled to complete in a year.

Mixed reactions and concerns were raised when the SU Library announced the relocation online on Jan. 17.

Since then, library personnel continued to transport resources and materials to the gym; conducted the SU Libro program to give out old books to students, schools, and public libraries; and discarded periodicals and other materials that needed to be phased out.

Aside from the books, the temporary library at the gym will have ten computer units, a laptop zone, internet access, the MakerSpace, the American Corner, and lounging areas.

The opening of the temporary library was initially set at an earlier date but was pushed back due to delays with the installation of electricity, WiFi, CCTV cameras, and the hiring of security personnel.

Service hours were also changed due to the relocation, with physical services available only on the weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the meantime, Physical Education (PE) classes such as modern dance and international group dance classes will continue to be held at the green badminton courts in the gym.

Other events such as the University Intramurals, varsity practices, and other university-wide events will be held at alternative venues.

On location: No better option

The decision to temporarily relocate the library’s operations to the gym was not among the University Library Council’s (ULC) initial proposals, but a suggestion by Dr. Earl Jude Cleope, Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA).

Cleope’s main reasons for choosing the gym as the area for relocation included the ease of transporting the library’s resources and convenience for students.

The administration rejected other proposals due to logistical reasons.

The first option initially proposed by the University Librarian was to scatter the library’s resources across the learning resource centers (LRCs) of the different departments and colleges.

However, Cleope said that this proposal was rejected because not all colleges have LRCs that can accommodate the library’s collections.

“The fact is that, where will the students go?” Cleope said. “And the logistics of transferring [must also be considered since] all the resources and materials [will go] to all these different places.”

Portal East was another option for the relocation, but its lack of flooring, air conditioning, and other facilities made the proposal unviable, according to Cleope.

“In other words, practicality-wise [and] cost-wise, that was out of the question,” he said.

The use of container vans came up as another option but was eventually scrapped considering all facilities and resources are expected to be transferred back to the Main Library in a year.

Doing the construction in phases while the librarians and books remained in other parts of the library was also mentioned, but was rejected by the contractor due to the scale of the renovation and the hazards involved.

“So the option that I saw was the gym,” Cleope said. “[During the consultation, we] realized that the gym would be the suitable place because it’s near the library, students can still go, and there will be no stoppage of services.”

Sarah Angiela Ragay, officer-in-charge of the University Librarian’s office, said that they had concerns regarding the gym as the chosen area for temporary relocation.

“We ourselves are very concerned about [the affected events such as the intramurals, PE classes, and graduation],” Ragay said. “[But Dr. Cleope said] we have [the Lamberto] Macias [Sports Complex], [the] Luce [Auditorium, and many other options].”

On the concerns regarding the intramurals, Jane Annette Belarmino, Vice President for Development, Enterprise, and External Affairs, said that the gym is only one of several venues for sporting events.

“[Between the gym and] a library renovation that is basically the heart of any academic institution, [which will you prioritize]?” Belarmino asked. “Library or intramurals that will only take place one week in one year? The library that will be used by all students for the entire year [or] intramural games where we can find alternative venues?”

The PE and athletics departments were also consulted before the relocation and agreed with the arrangement.

On timing: Renovation was urgent

While the Uytengsu Foundation, Inc. donated  ₱120 million for the renovation of the Main Library in 2019, the renovation was only approved in November 2022.

Complications with COVID-19 and the long processes of commissioning architects, planning, bidding, and seeking approval from the donors and the Board of Trustees led to the three-year wait, according to Belarmino.

“If you are a donor, and you had donated this amount and nothing has been done, how would you feel?” Cleope said. “And if there will be no movement whatsoever, when will the modernization take place?”

Cleope then confirmed that the the contractor has been waiting along with all the signed contracts, therefore, raising urgency levels of the project.

This is a developing story.

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