The College of Education embarked on a $1.1 million project this semester to renovate a library space that houses 30,000 children’s books.
The fourth floor area in the Education building, which was originally built as a library, is home to the Worlds of Words program, an international collection of adolescent and children’s literature, said Ronald W. Marx, dean of the College of Education.
“This collection is the largest of its type in North America and the second largest in the world,” Marx said. “Because of its quality and uniqueness, we want to have a physical space that matches the quality of the books.”
Kathy G. Short, a professor of teaching, learning and sociocultural studies in the Language, Reading and Culture program and director of Worlds of Words, donated the 30,000 books with the help of her husband and created the program. The purpose of the growing book collection is to “build global understanding” through children’s and adolescent literature, Short said.
“The space is very old, and while we were able to spruce it up, it was not flexible enough for the wide range of needs, because we are doing everything from events with children and families and local organizations up to highly scholarly events,” Short said.“So we needed a space that was really flexible. This [current] space did not reflect what we are doing.”
The area being renovated is roughly 7,000 square feet, and the north side of the building will be made up of mostly windows so visitors can experience the “world-class view” of the Catalina Mountains and the city of Tucson, Marx said.
Richard Clift, coordinator of collections and outreach for the College of Education, said the window design was the architect’s idea.
“The windows were a part of the architect’s vision, because he saw the streetcar out there and realized that we just can’t have this be scenery — this has to be a destination,” Clift said, “something that people stop to look at.”
The renovation began on Aug. 1, according to Short, but was halted when asbestos was found in the ceilings. The project was set back six weeks, and the finding had not been allotted for in the budget.
The college has most of the $1.1 million necessary to pay for the renovations, according to Marx. Groups including the Marshall Foundation, the Margaret E. Mooney Foundation and the Ohio Children’s Foundation, as well as many individual donators, have contributed to funding the project, Short said.
Short said renovations are anticipated to be completed by the end of December, and the space should be 100 percent ready to host the Tucson Festival of Books in March.
“This space is anticipated to be an attraction at UA,” Short said, “[with] uses ranging from young children doing illustration workshops to highly academic scholars from the U.S. and even from other countries visiting.”