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Board of trustees initiate planning for Thomas Cooper Library renovations, McBryde and Honors residence halls projects

<p>USC’s board of trustees Chair Emeritus Dorn Smith III looks toward a presenter at the board meeting on March 18, 2024. The board approved renovations to Thomas Cooper Library, the demolition of McBryde and other projects in USC's new master plan for further consideration.</p>
USC’s board of trustees Chair Emeritus Dorn Smith III looks toward a presenter at the board meeting on March 18, 2024. The board approved renovations to Thomas Cooper Library, the demolition of McBryde and other projects in USC's new master plan for further consideration.

Renovations to Thomas Cooper Library, the demolition of McBryde and other projects in USC's new master plan were approved by the board of trustees for further consideration on Monday.

Some proposals were approved to enter phase one, meaning that studies are initiated to determine what changes to make in each project and how much each change will cost. Proposed changes will need to be approved again later to progress to phase two

“I want you to know that several of the priorities and opportunities identified in the master plan that you saw on Jan. 15 are being looked at more deeply with feasibility studies right now,” University Architect Derek Gruner said. “Those studies will inform what we think the budget will be and what the scope of work will be. It'll all be folded into the ultimate funding plan.”

Thomas Cooper Library

Proposals for phase one of renovations to Thomas Cooper Library were approved. The project will “modernize” the building, Gruner said

The discussion followed previous proposals from architecture design firm Sasaki in the board’s January retreat, where representatives from the company proposed concepts that would “activate” the space to make it more interactive and welcoming. 

 during the past few months have been in preparation for this project — in part to increase student study spaces and to decrease the number of book stacks in the library

University President Michael Amiridis said Sasaki pointed out that Thomas Cooper is behind on a trend in libraries across the country. Amiridis said libraries are more of a place for students to do work than to find resources. 

“Our circulation numbers have dropped approximately 80% over the last 10 years,” Amiridis said. “But we're not going to get rid of the books. I want to assure the faculty members that they will be there. They will be available to them (as we) will store them in a different way. And we'll open up the space for our students.”

The timeline of these renovations is unknown. Research still needs to be completed to prepare for the project, Gruner said.

Sumter Street on-campus residential projects

Phase one of residential projects, including an addition to the Honors Residence Hall and the replacement of McBryde, were also approved. 

The project would demolish and build a new dorm on the McBryde site, increasing its bed count by approximately 500, where it now has 260. A third wing of the Honors Residence Hall would be constructed to add approximately 140 beds to its current 537.

“It is going to be necessary to do something on the McBryde site,” Gruner said. “That building is beyond service life. And if you look at this location — fantastic location for student housing.”

Gruner said these projects go back to Sasaki’s proposals to “activate the core” of campus

Science and Technology building

A project to upfit and renovate the Science and Technology building, which was previously initially approved, was presented again to the board to increase the project’s budget to $25 million

The project will renovate the East Tower space to provide 16 classrooms, four instructional labs, nine faculty offices and more meeting and study spaces.

“(There was a) need for more instructional labs that came through the master planning process,” Gruner said. “We have now added instructional labs to the program and also technology-enhanced active learning classrooms, which has helped this budget to increase to $25 million, all again with state-appropriated funds.”

5.3% dining and housing fee increase

In addition to discussions on renovations of the library and residential buildings, the board approved a more than 5.3% increase to students' dining and housing fees, a decision “mainly tied to inflation,” associate vice president for Finance and BudgetKelly Epting said

This type of approval would typically happen over the summer, but the board wanted to approve the fee increase earlier for students' planning purposes, said Epting.

The trustees also presented a certificate of appreciation to former Student Body President Emmie Thompson for her contribution to the board and welcomed new Student Body President Patton Byars.

"Every time I said something, it was heard," Thompson said. "I could tell that you all really cared about the student experience, and that has just meant so much to me. So I hope that these relationships won't end just because I'm leaving the student body president role, and that all the initiatives I advocated for this year will be pushed forward between Patton and all of you."


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