UTPB library goes modern

Oct. 12—Part of University of Texas Permian Basin’s campus transformation includes the renovation of the J. Conrad Dunagan Library.

The first floor of the two-story structure will be open plan. Plans are to include e-Sports, an innovation lab, printers, study spaces, an event space with a stage and seating for about 100 people or a little more, offices for the Blackstone Launchpad, the student entrepreneurship group, and a new Office of Innovation and Commercialization employee, said Brian Shedd, executive director, Office of Innovation and Commercialization and interim vice president for research.

The first-floor space encloses 9,000 square feet and will be filled with lots of natural light. They moved into the library in 2000. The common seating area will have modular seating with different layouts. Some will include technology for presentations or power hookups so students can plug in their laptops. There will be group seating and solo seating.

“It’s really going to be an inviting space (with) a lot of different seating options for the students,” Shedd said.

The eSports arena will have large TVs so gaming can be projected into the commons area for bigger events. The room itself will have a glass door and it can be open during events so people can come in and out of the competition space.

“We will have two rows of desks that come out from the side here that are going to have our 12 high-performance gaming work stations for doing the desktop gaming and networked gaming. Against the far wall, we have four TVs for doing more console and casual gaming. We’ll have some different seating options up in the front for those activities,” Shedd said.

The STEM Academy has an eSports program, so they will be able to use the gaming space, as well, he added.

The popular eSports right now are Counter-Strike, Overwatch and Valorant, which are multiplayer network games, Shedd said.

For the console games, it’s Tekken, Smash Bros and Mario Kart.

“They have some really big tournaments around some of the console gaming, as well,” Shedd said. “We have students that are part of our coalition of gamers and they have a list of gaming games that their members are most interested in. You’ll have a competitive team built around one particular game and that’s all they’ll do.”

“We’re talking with athletics right now because there are a lot of schools that are actually offering athletic scholarships for eSports now and so we think over time there might be an athletic component here as well, which will be good as we grow,” he added.

The event space will have movable barriers to separate it from the commons area. It can be used for things like poster presentations and science fair demonstrations.

The innovation lab will have 16 3D printers, stations for student workers and movable work stations.

The books and academic study spaces have moved to the second floor.

The project architect is Parkhill and the contractor is MW Builders. Construction is expected to be complete in December, but the furniture won’t arrive until February or March.

“We’ll probably start having some events to welcome people into the space come January, or February and then definitely as we get the furniture in and the rest of the technology in, we’re thinking of doing a soft launch here as well as at the CEED (Building) because those projects are connected. We’ll probably do a soft launch in the spring and then have a big grand opening next fall,” Shedd said.

The CEED renovations are expected to be complete around the same time as the library. The cost for both projects is about $8 million with the library coming in at $3,495,000.

“They’re making a lot of progress. the renovation that we’re doing there I would say is a little bit more substantial than what we’re doing here just because we’re adding a lot of lab space there and … turning over a lot of rooms. Here, it was furniture leaves; furniture comes back. We added the innovation lab and the eSports arena, but those were really the only two new spaces that were built out,” Shedd said.

The more contemplative, quiet study space will be upstairs.

“We’ve done some informal sound testing just to be sure. The good thing is that we have a really, really thick floor here, so there’s not going to be the noise transmitted this way,” Shedd said pointing up. “But because this is open and the stairway’s open, if we have an event or something like that we just need to make sure that we’re mindful of timing and making sure students know when things are going to be happening here that might be a little louder.”

A student committee helped pick out the furniture and a coalition of gamers has been helping to select the gaming systems.

“We’re almost done picking out the gaming systems for the eSports arena and they’ve also walked through the innovation lab just so we could talk about equipment that’s going in there and what they might want. They asked for some vinyl cutters just to do different types of projects,” Shedd said.

He added that Vice President for Student Development and Leadership Becky Spurlock thought it was important to get student input to make sure they had a voice in all the planning and renovation activity.

Jose Chavez was part of a group of students selected to give input on the renovation’s furniture.

“The university put together students from different organizations such as Student Government Association, the Coalition of Organized Gaming, etc. It was great to be able to be give input and represent my peers and the needs of fellow students. Also, I applaud the university for bringing in students and for taking into consideration our opinions of what we would like to see in the building we will be using daily,” Chavez said in an email.