Back in early 2009, The Saint attended a class reps forum, where details of a proposed Library redevelopment – in the making for many years – were finally put out for consultation among a group. The artist impression of a shiny glass structure was impressive. But so was the price tag: £46 million.
Nevertheless, we left pleased, and with a promise of more detailed plans in the coming months. It was over a year before we heard anything concrete again, and as it turned out in this case, no news was most definitely not good news. As the start date for the development grew ever closer, University fundraising could simply never match the ambition. As the Proctor admitted with admirable bluntness to us this issue (News, p1-3), they risked delivering “the big zero.” And with grim forecasts of further budget cuts looming in the future,
And so in June, the University Court approved a new, phased redevelopment plan, beginning with an investment of £14m. It was certainly not immediately popular with the student body, and to be sure, there’s a whole world of difference between the two proposals. Furthermore, the lack of forewarning or consultation from the University, who made the announcement just as students had left St Andrews in June, made matters a whole lot worse.
But we have been satisfied that there are many more reasons to be positive. Money is to be invested in those areas of most common concern; primarily in providing more seating spaces by moving special collections elsewhere, and in improving the heating, ventilation, lighting and furniture that anyone whose ever completed an essay on a cold November night there is all too familiar with. But more than all of this, we can be positive because the work will begin next summer.
We seem to have reached a welcome consensus that the redevelopment plan now settled on is the most realistic way of proceeding on a project that has been rumbling on since some of our new Freshers were in Primary School. It is not perhaps as much at once as had been envisaged. But it is, at least, actually happening.
The University must undertake to keep students much better informed as this development progresses. But most of all, they must ensure that further stages of this phased renovation of our Library don’t remain stuck in the starting blocks for nearly as long as the first one.