The shelves of Hatch Science Library's third floor may be filled with test tubes rather than textbooks in years to come.
"We applied in August for an NSF—National Science Foundation—Grant to renovate some space in Hatch for neuroscience and earth science," said Senior Vice President for Planning & Development and Secretary of the College Bill Torrey.
The plans, however, are "very much up in the air," according to President Barry Mills,
"This is not a done deal by any means at this point," said Torrey. "I would characterize this as a possible renovation, not a planned renovation."
The decision to renovate will be almost entirely determined by whether or not the College receives the "couple million dollars" of grant money, which will be awarded sometime in the winter, said Mills.
In light of the recent capital campaign, the College will not fundraise if the grant does not come through.
"If we don't get the grant, we're not doing it," said Torrey.
If the College does receive the money, a good deal of planning will still be needed to ascertain whether or not the cost of the renovations can be covered by the grant.
"What we don't want to do is get ourselves into a situation where it's not enough money," said Torrey, adding that the College would have to fundraise to cover the excess costs.
According to Torrey, the College had not planned on renovating Hatch until administrators became aware of the NSF grant and decided to apply.
Mills said that he heard about the grant by keeping tabs on "what money is available through the stimulus package to a place like Bowdoin."
In anticipation of applying, Mills met with a group of administrators and representatives from the Science Departments to discuss how the grant could best be used.
"We got together...and said, 'let's assume this money arrived at Bowdoin, how could we use it?'" said Mills.
The application was not motivated by demands made by professors in the science departments.
"It was not a situation where people were banging on our doors," Torrey said.
The College, however, has "added eight positions in the sciences since Druckenmiller and Hatch were built and renovated [respectively] in 1997" and anticipates the need for more lab space in the future, according to Torrey.
The grant is not the solution to a pressing need of the College; rather, both Torrey and Mills said they felt that they had nothing to lose by applying.
"I think it would have been irresponsible not to look at this opportunity," said Torrey.
The ideal is to be openminded and resourceful at a time when there is not an excess of funds, said Mills. He and others said they saw the NSF grant as "an opportunity we should really take advantage of."
Some students, however, are less excited about the possible renovation.
"I'm against it," said Hatch employee Jennette Shepard '11. "Why turn the top floor of the library into two private labs for professors? That doesn't feel right to me."
Shepard learned of the plans from Science Librarian Sue O'Dell, who shared the news at Hatch's monthly employee meeting.
Shepard created a Facebook group titled "SAVE HATCH Science Library!" in late October. As of last night, the group had 58 members, up from 39 on Wednesday afternoon.
The group's description states: "The Bowdoin administration has applied for two grants to turn the entire third floor of Hatch into two science laboratories. This means we will lose space for the science books, the second study room, and all of the best study space in Hatch. The worst part is that they did not want you to find out until they rolled out the yellow construction tape. A year from now the third floor will be blocked off with a giant wall and the clicks of your computer keys will be punctuated with drills and hammers. Stand up to protect your study space, Hatch Science Library, and your livelihood at Bowdoin College."
Shepard said that she said she feels that the College was not transparent about the application for the grant and created the group to raise awareness of the possible renovation.
"I feel like people need to know about it so there can be a fight against it, if that's what people want," she said.
"Getting the word out was my first step. I'm probably going to do something else; I just don't know what my plans are," she added.
Shepard's resistance to the renovation is partly grounded in her attachment to the space itself.
"I personally think that the top floor is the best place to study...the basement is kind of dismal," she said.
News of student opposition has reached the administration's ears.
"I've heard through the grapevine that some people are concerned we'll be losing study space," said Mills, who is aware of the Facebook group.
According to Mills, the plans for Hatch are "way too preliminary to get started on the road of being concerned."
"I think people should wait until they see what the plan would be and whether we're going anywhere with it," said Torrey.
Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd addressed the concern regarding loss of study space and where the books on the third floor would be relocated.
"No access to library materials would be lost if this renovation goes forward, but rather consolidated in the lower two floors," wrote Judd in an e-mail to the Orient.
According to Judd, the administration is interested in "maintaining many of the informal student study and gathering spaces on that floor."
Mills expressed interest in hearing student reactions firsthand, as no students have approached him yet.
"I'd invite them to come and talk to me about it," he said.
While Mills recognized student resistance, he encouraged students to rise above "emotional reaction[s]" to the possibility and acknowledge the needs of the College.
We must "progress without new spaces," he said, and decide "how we're going to use our current space most effectively."