Education students petition to save McLure Library

Rachel Seale, Contributing Writer

For students in the College of Education at the University of Alabama, McLure Library is a beloved building that holds resources, study spaces and memories. 

The University plans to renovate McLure Library to create a new classroom building for the College of Communication and Information Sciences that will serve as the new home of the School of Library and Information Sciences, which is currently located on the seventh floor of Gorgas Library. The final architectural and engineering plan was approved in February by the UA board of trustees. 

Along with the renovation, the Board also approved a 900-foot addition to the current building, which includes the installation of an elevator and mending of other safety and maintenance issues. 

The estimated total for the project is $18 million.  

On Feb. 9, a group of education students created an Instagram account called ‘Save Mclure Library.’ Additionally, Lauren Little created an online petition to convince the University not to close the library. The petition currently has over 800 signatures.  

Riley Cunningham, a junior majoring in elementary education, said Little had the initial idea to save McLure.  

Once the petition reaches 1,000 signatures, Cunningham said Little will present it to College of Education Dean Peter Hlebowitsh. Cunningham hopes this will prove that people do care about the library and want to keep it. 

Caleb Fondren, a junior majoring in elementary education, said students have access to supplies for their internship placements, like sets of rulers and elementary textbooks, that they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere besides McLure.  

“The more well-equipped we are and the more resources we have, the better teachers we can become,” Fondren said. 

Fondren said the University has one of the largest pools of future teachers in the state and losing resources could prevent them from teaching at the highest levels. He added that McLure holds the only study spots and lounge for education majors. McLure is also easy to access since the basement of Autherine Lucy Hall, the only building dedicated to education students, is connected to the library’s basement. 

According to Fondren, Hlebowitsh told Little renovations would begin this summer. The top floor will hold C&IS classrooms and offices, the basement will house a book making area and the main floor will be dedicated to education majors.  

Director of Strategic Engagement for University Libraries Michael Pearce said via an email statement that the College of Communication and Information Sciences will oversee the former library.  

However, Pearce said education students will still have access to the resources that are currently housed in McLure. 

“No resources are being removed from our collections with the facility changing roles,” Pearce added.  

Pearce said the idea to renovate the library was proposed in 2007 to accommodate infrastructure, the Americans with Disabilities Act and safety issues that need to be updated.  

“This construction requires us to vacate the entire building for a year or more. While we would love to be able to dedicate a new building to a new education library, taking all of those issues into account while also considering changes in student and faculty usage of both the building and the physical collections within it over the past 10 years, it was difficult to justify renovating the building with the same mission it had served previously,” Pearce said. 

Pearce said no one in the education department, communications department or libraries have been contacted about a petition. He said the physical collections that are currently in McLure will be stored in Gorgas Library. 

“The College of Communications and Information Sciences will also be offering access to its early childhood literacy collection that will be available to all students and faculty in the newly renovated McLure building,” Pearce said. “Additionally, the College of Education is doubling its space in the Belser-Parton Literacy Center and also plans to have a teacher-prep education resource unit in the remodeled McLure building.” 

Audrey Bailey, a junior majoring in public health, said even though she isn’t an education student, she prefers to study at McLure.  

Bailey said she saw the petition on Instagram and signed it. She loves the smaller feel of the space and noted that McLure is a more comfortable place for her to study since it is smaller than Gorgas, which helps her concentrate despite her learning disabilities.  

Bailey said McLure is her favorite library, and she hopes it will remain open.  

“I thought it kind of brought a community of sorts when I was studying with my friends,” Bailey said. 

When Cunningham originally heard about the renovation plans, she thought the library would continue to serve education majors. 

“A lot of people really do care about this building. This library was built in 1925 and for them to renovate it for another major isn’t right,” Cunningham said.