The Bryan Center is now closed off due to construction on the West Union building, across from where a crane is seen working on Rubenstien Library.
The Bryan Center is now closed off due to construction on the West Union building, across from where a crane is seen working on Rubenstien Library.

For students returning to campus this Fall, it may appear as though West Campus has been swallowed up by bulldozers and related machinery—but the current overlap in construction projects was not necessarily deliberate.

Extensive work is currently being done on either side of the Chapel quadrangle, with the restoration of the West Union on one side and renovations to Perkins and Rubenstein Libraries on the other. Both projects have necessitated the closure of major campus walkways—a portion of the Bryan Center Plaza in the case of West Union, and the main entrance to Perkins and adjacent parts of the academic quad in the case of the libraries.

Although such limited mobility might cause frustration for students and professors, the projects were not originally planned to be concurrent. The work on the libraries was significantly delayed due to the 2008 crash of the economy and ensuing recession, noted Aaron Welborn, director of communications for the Duke Libraries.

“No one knew that was going to happen,” Welborn said. “All of our construction plans had to be put on hold until the economy could recover, which is why all of this construction is happening now.”

The present work is part of the Perkins Project, which began in 2000 and led to the creation of Bostock Library in 2005 and Von der Heyden Pavilion in 2006. The current construction was intended to be completed several years ago, but the recession left the University unable to move forward.

A gift of $13.6 million from Board of Trustees chair David Rubenstein, Trinity '70, in 2011 enabled the construction team to finish raising the money necessary to complete the renovation, Welborn added.

“Construction gets more expensive the longer you wait,” he said. “If you have the money, you do it so the costs don’t continue to rise.”

The entrance to Perkins facing the academic quad and the adjoining lobby area will be closed for the upcoming academic year as part of the renovation to the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which was named for Rubenstein following his 2011 donation. To enter the library, people must now use the side entrance of Perkins or the exterior door of the von der Heyden Pavilion. Both doors are now unlocked during regular library hours in an effort to accommodate higher traffic.

“In terms of security, it will be somewhat better because there will only be one main entrance,” Welborn said. “It will be a little bit of a challenge to train people, but once they figure it out, it will become what they're used to.”

This final stage of the Perkins Project also includes the transformation of Bostock's first floor into a new academic center similar to the Link currently found in the basement of Perkins. Designed to meet the needs of interdisciplinary studies and team-based, data-driven research, the new center aligns with the goals of the new Bass Connections interdisciplinary initiative.

Currently called the “Research Commons,” the new space is set to open in January 2015. Funding for the space came from the Libraries’ Duke Forward campaign, particularly the support of Todd and Karen Ruppert and the Bostock Family. The Research Commons will provide a variety of digital tools and workspaces, rooms for project teams and expanded technology and training facilities.

“More and more students at Duke are doing work that involves collaboration and digital communication,” Welborn said. “Bass Connections is aimed at getting teams of people to work on real-world problems, creating demands for more space to work on these projects.”

Welborn added that the first floor of Bostock was determined to be an accessible space due to the under-utilization of its current materials. By supporting projects like the ones coming out of Bass Connections, the Research Commons is designed to drive more students to utilize the space. Renovation for the Research Commons began in May 2014 and are scheduled to last until November. The target date for the completion of the entire Perkins Project is 2015, when the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library will move into its new home.

“So far, we seem to be on track,” Welborn said, adding that most of the construction will occur over the summer. “With construction, you never know—but so far, so good.”

Welborn added that following the renovations, Duke students and faculty will be proud to walk into the library.

“It will be the kind of library that a university like Duke deserves,” he said

Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Bostock Library was redesigned in 2005 as part of the Perkins Project. It was built in 2005. The Chronicle regrets the error.