Renovations to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library will gain momentum mid-December as West Campus library renovations near completion.

Renovations to the 1928 and 1948 portions of Rubenstein, the original West Campus library structure, will begin this winter and are slated to finish summer 2015, said Rubenstein Library Director Naomi Nelson. These changes mark the final phase of the Perkins Project, an initiative that originated in 2000 to improve the design and function of the Perkins Library complex. Although the University is planning major changes to Rubenstein’s exterior as well as its research and storage capabilities, the construction will not significantly affect students through the rest of the academic year.

Rubenstein is an aging building that will benefit from state-of-the-art improvements, said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University librarian and vice provost for library affairs, in an email Monday. The goals of the renovation include growing the library’s collection capacity, improving research space and updating historic space.

“The renovations will bring not only inspiring spaces that are commensurate with Duke’s distinctive special collections but also enhanced spaces for public programming and for study that will benefit the entire Duke community,” Jakubs noted.

The first notable step in the process will take place Dec. 17, when the Biddle Rare Book Room and the reading room will close to the public, Nelson said. On Jan. 6, 2013, the reading room will reopen on the third floor of Perkins. The Biddle Rare Book Room will stay closed until renovations are complete in 2015. Administrators expect that by early Spring, the library’s contents will be relocated.

Some of Rubenstein’s special collections and other contents, including a portion of the Biddle Rare Book Room, will be moved to stacks on the third floor of Perkins, said Aaron Welborn, Duke Libraries director of communications. Other special collections will be housed off site and may require 48-hour advance notice to access. This is not a significant departure from the current system, which occasionally requires professors and students to page the library service center ahead of time in order to access some materials, he noted.

After most students leave campus May 2013, the entire 1928 and 1948 sections of Rubenstein will be closed until the renovations are complete, Nelson added. This includes the Breedlove Room and Gothic Reading Room, as well as the study space located adjacent to the Gothic Reading Room and the corner entrance to the library closest to the West Campus bus stop. Additionally, the political science department will completely move out of the library and into Gross Hall by that time.

Closing these select rooms in Rubenstein will not affect students wishing to access the library or study space through the rest of the 2012-2013 school year, Nelson explained.

“The library will be open for business as usual through the end of exams,” Nelson said. “In terms of study space, everything will remain the way it is now.”

The timeline may not proceed exactly as scheduled, but student accessibility to the library’s materials will not be disrupted, Welborn added.

“The idea is that by the end of the Spring 2013 semester, all of the people and all of the stuff will be moved out of this part of the building so that it can be sealed off and renovation can begin,” he said.

Because it is not yet known whether or not there is asbestos in the building, the University may have to employ “hazardous material remediation.” If asbestos is found in the building, it will need to be identified and removed as part of the renovation process, he said.

Only in 2014 will the renovations to the library begin to manifest in more obvious ways. The main entrance to both Perkins and Rubenstein Libraries will undergo remodeling in 2014 and will be closed to students for an extended period of time. Students will still be able to enter Perkins through the entrance across from Bostock Library.

Rubenstein Library will host an open house Dec. 10 to inform students about the current and future purposes of the space, Nelson said. Study space will be made available to students in order to allow them to get to know the library better in its current incarnation. After Fall semester finals, however, those who normally study in Rubenstein will have to relocate to the third floor of Perkins or a different space altogether.

“It is worth mentioning that there are 10 libraries at Duke,” Welborn said. “This is a good time to explore those other options.”