CRL - collections facility upgrade

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am writing to you with news about the CRL collections facility.  We don’t often talk about the facility, which, as many of you know, is a four-story, 175,000 square foot building in Chicago, adjacent to the University of Chicago campus.   This two-module facility has served CRL well since its construction in the 1980s and 1990s.  It has provided good security and a preservation-quality environment for CRL paper and microform collections – many of which are unique or irreplaceable.  The facility is also the site of much of the processing, cataloging, digitization, and service of CRL collections. 

 At the April 21, 2011 Annual Members Council Meeting CRL member library directors approved a capital improvement budget allocation of $384,235, to support major upgrades during the current fiscal year.  These upgrades, described below, are now getting underway.  They will greatly improve the integrity of the building’s exterior “envelope,” improve the efficiency of the HVAC system, and upgrade the technology of the extant fire safety system. 

 I am also happy to report that, owing to smart contract development and negotiations by CRL facilities coordinator Don Dyer, we expect these projects to be completed significantly below budget. 

  1. The roof revamp project will revamp all seams and replace all rooftop drains and hardware on the building, and will add a weather-proof barrier to the rooftop perimeter wall.  These renovations will extend the useful life of the existing roof by many years and reduce the demand on the HVAC system. 
  2. The HVAC upgrade will replace two of CRL’s four rooftop chiller units and integrate “smart” technology sensors into the air handling system.  The HVAC system is programmed to maintain preservation-quality conditions of 60 degrees (F) and 40% relative humidity on the upper three floors, where CRL collections are stored.  This work is scheduled for late October, as the colder, drier conditions reduce HVAC system demands and minimize the risk of environmental threats to the collections.  The new chillers will provide greater energy efficiency and stability to the system (and qualify for a Commonwealth Edison efficiency program incentive as well).  The smart sensors will mediate the amount of outside air the system is required to dehumidify and cool in the summer and heat in the winter, based on human activity in the building.  This will result in additional energy savings on the weekends and at night when no staff or very few staff are on the premises.  
  3. The fire safety system upgrade will, over the course of the next two years, replace the facility’s 328 fire and smoke detectors, alarm activation devices, ductwork sensors, and monitoring systems, and will feature a redundant alarm transmission system.  The new, more sensitive equipment will make the facility safer for both the staff and the collections and the redundancy will ensure immediate communication with responders should an emergency arise. 

These improvements represent a significant investment in CRL collections.  They will ensure that the incomparable holdings of newspapers, archives, journals, dissertations, and government documents assembled over the years by CRL will continue to be available to future researchers.

Bernard F. Reilly
President (2001-2019)
Center for Research Libraries