By:
Jeffrey Javier, Sundt Construction renderings

Visit the University of Arizona’s Main Library, and you will find fencing and construction crews working on extensive renovations to the 46-year-old building. The Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library will also undergo a major facelift beginning in May. 

All the tearing down and building up represent the first phase of a comprehensive plan to transform the two libraries and Bear Down Gymnasium into a new Student Success District. A new Student Success Building connected to Bear Down Gym by walkways will complete the district, which also will feature strategically designed outdoor spaces and new entries. 

Bear Down/Student Success Building bridge rendering and Bear Down Gymnasium rendering

Building the Student Success District is a priority project for the university’s new strategic direction. 

“It’s a pivotal element in the UA’s commitment to support our students’ educational and career goals,” says UA President Robert C. Robbins. “Once completed, the district will feature collaborative learning spaces that engage students in active learning and with cutting-edge technology as well as inviting spaces that support student wellness and health.” 

The UA Libraries and three programs in the Office of the Provost — Student Success and Retention Innovation, Student Engagement and Career Development, and Campus Life — are leading the project, which is expected to be completed in 2021. Library services will continue uninterrupted throughout the renovations. 

“A primary driver behind the Student Success District concept is the recognition that learning and student development happens 24/7 and doesn’t stop when the student leaves the classroom,” says UA Libraries Dean Shan Sutton.

Today, several student services have outgrown their current spaces and are spread across campus in buildings unsuited to the needs of a growing student population. 

The UA’s largest tutoring program, THINK TANK, held more than 65,000 sessions in the past year but lacks dedicated classroom space. Once the new Student Success Building is completed, THINK TANK will occupy an entire floor so tutors can effectively conduct individual and group sessions. 

Interim Senior Vice Provost Vincent Del Casino Jr. says the Student Success District will be the central hub for students to access the support they need at all stages of their college experience. 

“It will be a place for students to really find themselves and connect to resources that will empower them and prepare them for success in the classroom, in life and eventually in their first career,” Del Casino says. 

Visit successdistrict.arizona.edu for information.

Creating the Student Success District

Main Library 

Changes to the ground floor will accommodate several technology studios dedicated to tools from 3D printers and laser cutters to virtual reality equipment as well as a variety of new study spaces. The northwest corner will feature expansive outdoor seating and a new point of entry. 

The basement level will house an expanded area for the library’s popular technology lending program, which in the past year loaned out more than 63,000 laptops, tablets and other devices to students. 

Main Library West rendering and Main Library Data Studio rendering

Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library 

Renovations target the library’s second and third floors. Renovated spaces will better facilitate collaborative learning experiences and group projects. A new two-story entrance on the east side of the building will improve traffic flow with new study areas and more natural light. 

Both the Main Library and Weaver Library will also retain floors of traditional quiet study spaces with access to print collections. 

Bear Down Gymnasium 

The main floor of Bear Down Gym will house the advising resource center, drop-in advising services, THINK TANK tutoring programs and space for students to interact with potential employers. Consistent with the building’s original purpose, a full-size basketball court will remain and the basement of the gym will focus on promoting student health and wellness. 

Student Success Building 

This project includes the construction of the new four-story Student Success Building south of Bear Down Gym as a home for services like THINK TANK, the UA Thrive Center, and Student Engagement and Career Development as well as Academic Advising, all of which help students navigate their university experience. 

A Fitting Tribute

Last fall, the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation donated $7 million to renovate the Science-Engineering Library as part of the Student Success District. In conjunction with this gift, it has been renamed the Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library. 
John P. Schaefer, UA president emeritus and a board member of the Cottrell Foundation, appointed Weaver to be provost and vice president of academic affairs in the early 1970s. During his tenure, Weaver was at the center of elevating the UA’s national profile in the sciences.