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Wilson Library construction timeline extended, library open to the public for the foreseeable future

Wilson Library, which contains water fountains detected to have lead, overlooks UNC's campus on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

The timeline for the Wilson Library Improvement Project, which was originally scheduled to begin in August and force temporary closure of the library, has now been extended, UNC Facilities Services announced on Friday.

Facilities services staff determined that cost estimates for the project surpassed the allocated budget of $31 million, pushing the improvement plan and library renovations back. The impending physical closure would have impacted current graduate students and the completion of their academic research. 

Due to the extension, the library, its special collections and program space will remain open to both researchers and the public for the foreseeable future.

James Bryan, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography and Environment, originally had to speed up his research timeline once he was notified that the in-person library materials he wanted to access would be unavailable starting in July.

“I was very pleased to hear the extension,” Bryan said. “I think it’s a great relief to myself and, I’m sure, plenty of other people who value Wilson Library and its archival collections.”

Bryan said he will now have time to look into collection materials in-depth for his research on labor markets and landscape history in the South. 

“When I first received news of Wilson closing last fall — I think at that point, that’s when my mind was telling me I really had to sprint through everything I wanted to do,” Bryan said. “This absolutely eases some stress for me, and I don’t have the same anxieties over what I have to get done in a certain amount of time anymore.”

The delay will allow the facilities planning staff to work more strategically and comprehensively, UNC Media Relations said in an email statement. 

The library and facilities planning staff will now develop a Libraries Space Master Plan that includes reviewing physical spaces, off-site storage of materials and budgeting to satisfy the Campus Master Plan — the framework to advance initiatives that impact the UNC community.

Media Relations said a design firm will be selected by the end of March to develop a plan for the project before the end of the year, to help inform priorities for further planning.

Some accessibility projects will still move forward, and funding has been set aside to make improvements to restrooms, signage, thresholds and fountains. 

“While the timeline has been extended, we remain committed to designing a bright future for this Carolina icon and center for research,” María Estorino, vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with campus to develop a more comprehensive and holistic approach that will unlock the full potential of Wilson Library.”


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