Library suffers from years of wear and tear

By Elizabeth Hill

Arizona Daily Wildcat

When an average of 45,000 people per week visit a building that is 20 years old, damage is bound to happen.

However, it is happening at a pace that the UA Main Library maintenance cannot match.

“When the building is open from 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., it gets really heavy use,” said Gloria Alvillar, Assistant Dean of Finance and Human Resources. She said the the majority of the damage is done to library furniture.

“I don’t have the funds to clean up,” she said.

A portion of furniture damage is caused by food and drinks students bring into the library.

“They don’t mean to spill. They don’t know they are going to spill, but they still spill,” Alvillar said. Because of spilled soda, paper sticks to some of the tables and cockroaches are attracted to the site.

“Food attracts cockroaches. Table after table, people have spilled water bottles and soda,” Alvillar said.

“I wish we had a ‘no gum’ policy,” she said.

On a damage tour through the library, Alvillar pointed to numerous dark gray spots on the floor and some chairs. The spots were old, ground-in gum. The library currently has a no food or drink policy in place.

The furniture also gets a personal touch by some students.

“People are pretty rough on the furniture,” she said. “They used to just do it (write on tables) with ink, but now they use White Out.”

Also on the damage tour, Alvillar pointed out upholstered chairs ripped down the middle and dipping toward the floor. She said she had no idea how these particular damages occur.

Some of the other damages to furniture occur when feet are put up on the chairs.

“Putting feet on the chairs is really bad,” Alvillar said.

She said not to tip the chairs back while studying.

“The chairs have broken with people sitting in them,” she said.

Tucson-based Western Upholstery Inc. gets a portion of the broken furniture from the library. Company President Tony Sinclair said “students are extremely abusive to furniture. If it had been of lesser quality it would have been toothpicks by now.”

“They behave at the library in a way they never would at home,” Sinclair said.

The library is only able to purchase new furniture when it operates under its budget. The last time this occurred was four years ago, and Alvillar said twenty chairs were added.

Students have been able to do some major damage while in group study rooms, she said. One of the rooms incurred cigarette damage. Another had a full mural drawn on the wall.

“We went to a no smoking policy after holes were burnt in the curtains and the carpeting. The carpet was burned up so badly that I had to have it replaced with tile,” she said.

The room next door had recently been painted over because of what Alvillar called a “pornographic” mural on the wall.

The books also incur damage. Alvillar had a book that had nothing inside the binding except for the pocket where the due date card goes.

“We have a lot of students who don’t want to spend six cents or a dime to make copies,” she said. “The sad part is, it may be out of print and irreplaceable.”

Students are punished if they get caught damaging books, she said.

“If a person is found out, he or she is charged full replacement costs and reported to the office of the dean of students,” Alvillar said.

The public is not the only factor to blame in some of the damage, Alvillar said. Just the fact that the building is old causes a great deal of problems.

She said water comes through some of the windows every time it rains, and the water threatens the collections. “In some parts of the building it comes within two feet of the collection.”

The gaskets in the windows are deteriorating because of the elements.

“They were only designed to last seven to 10 years. I think it is all that was available at the time,” Alvillar said.

Also because of the water damage, “the 20-year-old carpeting is really starting to go,” Alvillar said.

The cost of repairing the gaskets would cost around $300,000, Alvillar said.

“If we don’t, though, our collection would be in jeopardy,” she said.

Alvillar said the library needs to be in good condition because she believes it is the most important part of the school. She said the sentiments of herself and her co-workers are a love of the library.

“We think of the library as the heart of the university. Most of us who work here love libraries. We hate to see anything happen to them. We’re keepers of knowledge and wisdom. We want to preserve it for years to come.”

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