What did a gymnasium, a student union basement, a dining hall, a grocery store, and a church have in common? These were the homes of the temporary branch libraries established at Eastern Illinois University so that Booth Library could undergo an $21 million renovation and expansion that took place August 1999 through December 2001. Booth Library, constructed in 1950 and expanded in 1968, was overdue for special attention; patron traffic flow, mechanical infrastructure, and space constraints had been problematic for decades.
Moving one million print volumes and its shelving, 1.2 million microforms, 250 computers, 65 persons and their offices, and numerous machines of all sorts was not an easy task. Planning for the relocation took more than one year to complete; the actual move spanned 14 weeks, including eight weeks for the transfer of collections.
Significant changes in layout were made to the building. The stone wall of the original 1950 south facade, covered since the 1968 expansion, became a feature of a central atrium. Natural light now floods the building from all directions, including the reading area on the lower level west and the grand space overlooking the garden to the south.
The renovated library displays collections and features services with a new flair. In addition to making technology pervasive throughout the library, stack areas now provide more seating, media collections are on open shelves, and a dozen group study rooms accommodate on-campus learners. Equipment for disabled patrons increased and several additional services for the distance students and faculty who serve them were expanded.
Two special areas of the new library were named. The Coles Ballenger Teachers' Center features materials and services for K-12 professionals and pre-professionals. One-third of all Eastern students seek teaching credentials; therefore, it is appropriate that Booth Library maintains close contact with regional teachers, school administrators, those who help train future teachers, and students preparing to teach. An EIU alumna and former teacher, the late Florence Coles Ballenger, has endowed the center.
Governor Jim Edgar, another Eastern alum and Charleston native, donated his papers and memorabilia to Booth Library. A seminar room and exhibit area off the main foyer was named in his honor, and his materials now reside in the new climate-controlled area of the University Archives and Special Collections.