LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A $40 million project to upgrade the library at State College of Florida may be put on hold next week so that the school’s new board members can ensure the project will serve SCF’s needs for the next several decades.
Carlos Beruff, chairman of SCF’s board of trustees, announced at a workshop Wednesday that he planned to make a motion at the board’s meeting next Wednesday to “stop the library as we know it.”
“We’re not saying we don’t need a library,” Beruff said to his fellow board members. However, he said, “anything we started three years ago is a moot point.”
Beruff said the speed at which technology has advanced, in the form of devices including iPads, may mean that library design decisions made by SCF’s old board are outdated. He said revisiting the library plans would be “the right thing for taxpayers.”
Beruff’s announcement came during a workshop at which SCF trustees discussed a wide range of topics covering not only recommendations from its capital needs committee, but suggestions from committees formed to review staffing and compensation for college faculty and administration, and budgeting decisions. He described the workshop as a chance for the new board, most of whom were appointed within the last six months, to “set a course for being more involved in the budgeting process and the faculty evaluation process.”
His press to revisit library plans prompted several board members and SCF President Lars Hafner to emphasize that the library project is not being cancelled or withdrawn. Hafner warned the board that clarifying its message regarding the library was essential to maintaining the support of legislators who have been lobbying for state funds for the project.
“We’ve been using words like stop, hold, halt,” Hafner said. “Those are words that are not going to sit well with our delegates in Tallahassee.”
In response to Hafner’s warning, Beruff and other board members emphasized that they all recognize the need for a new library. SCF’s current library was built in the 1960s, spokeswoman Kathy Walker said, and has only 349 total seats although it fields more than 2,000 daily visits. The new library is proposed to be more than 146,000 square feet, more than double the size of the current library, and would accommodate 4,000 daily visits.
So far, SCF has received $4.6 million in state funds for its project and is awaiting another $36 million. If Beruff has his way, the board will cancel its current contracts with architect Long & Associates and construction firm W.G. Mills, contracts which the board may then decide to renew with updated instructions. SCF has expended about $200,000 in design fees so far.
How to get students more involved in evaluating faculty was the other main theme that emerged from Wednesday’s workshop. SCF administrators say that only about 23 percent of SCF students participate in online reviews of their instructors, although about 50 percent of students used to participate in manual instructor reviews.
Board members will be continuing to research how to improve the student participation rate, and their ideas include seeking ways to make the reviews mandatory.
Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.