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Urbana U. plans first capital improvements under Franklin

Urbana University will start its first capital improvement project since Franklin University acquired the school in April.

An anonymous donor gave $70,000 toward improvements to the library and Urbana officials said they hope this is the first of many changes coming to campus under the new owners.

“People are over the moon with possibilities thanks to our partnership with Franklin and it’s a created a buzz on campus and in the community,” said Jan Hillman, Urbana University’s vice president of institutional advancement.

Construction on the library will start this summer or fall, Hillman said.

The improvements will take place mostly to the lobby and the area outside the library, with some new books also being added to its collection, director of library services Julie McDaniel said.

Melissa Runkle works in the library and said it’s a popular place for students.

“It’s a nice place to hang out and meet friends here,” Runkle said.

McDaniel hopes the lobby will become a new high-tech center with the improvements.

Other planned upgrades include new furniture for students, better disabled accessibility and a new front desk.

“By having a smaller front desk it will give us more area in our front lobby where students can talk and be loud, as opposed to being quiet in our study areas,” McDaniel said.

Outside the library, university officials hope to create an outdoor classroom with new landscaping and a brick path connecting the library to the Barkley, Bailey and Johnny Appleseed Museum buildings.

The donation will also go toward updating the children’s section of the library’s collection.

Runkle said surprisingly that is the one of the collections biggest needs.

“With all the education majors and all the projects they have to do, the children’s book collection is pretty small. So it’s hard for them to find book to use for those,” Runkle said.

Pam Shay is the Franklin University representative helping with the transition and new upgrades to the campus. She is originally from Springfield and now is works on Urbana’s campus.

Most improvements planned for next school year will focus on beautification changes.

“People like to see that physical presence,” Shay said.

Maintenance crews will repair roofs, windows, sidewalks, streets and remove dead trees around the campus in preparation for students next fall.

All faculty and staff members will also get new computers in July, Shay said.

Talks are in the works about new computers across the whole campus, as well as wifi and other infrastructure changes, she said, but Franklin is currently prioritizing what improvements it wants to start with.

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