As the Fondren Library Center (FLC) renovation moves closer to completion, Browsing Forward asked Rob Walker, Central University Libraries (CUL) director of renovation, and Devonne Washington, facilities manager, for a glimpse of their work on the front lines of the project.
Having earned the title of “serial renovator” after years of designing and remodeling his home, Walker segued naturally into his role as renovation director. His knowledge of the library, accumulated over 15 years on staff, provides insight and perspective as the transformation progresses, while he relies on experience in creating and manipulating construction drawings to better express library needs to the architects.
“I have been directly involved in the design of the new help desk area, the Prothro Learning Commons classrooms, the new print/ copy/scan room, the catering area in Fondren West, the security detection and audio visual systems, the Gillian M. McCombs Special Collections Reading Room, staff furniture, and the layout of the shelving for the entire library facility,” he explains. “I also help direct the staff moves.”
He looks for opportunities to “salvage as much of the original fabric of the building as is reasonably possible. Some of the original elements, like quartersawn oak with medullary rays and the shellstone from the Fondren West foyer, are simply gorgeous.”
Walker calls himself a conduit between the library administration and construction team.
“I am just one spoke on a wheel of talented and dedicated people working hard to make this project succeed,” he says, “including the library administration and staff led by Dean McCombs; our SMU project manager, Jeremy Tyson; our facilities manager, Devonne Washington; and our construction partner, Vaughn Construction. Without these folks, I wouldn’t be able to effectively serve the library.”
Washington holds a degree in Computer Information Systems and has developed geological software in Alaska, tested guided missiles for Raytheon, and is a self-proclaimed “paper nerd,” who formerly owned an invitation business. She arrived at CUL in 2014 and hit the ground running when preparations began for the renovation last year.
“The only thing typical about my days are that they are never typical,” she says.
Outfitted with her “tremendously large set of keys,” a notebook that is her constant companion and a pink hard hat, she begins her rounds. She examines the facility, jotting down any issues in her notebook; submits and follows up on building work orders; checks in with the construction crew and Facility Services to verify progress of ongoing work; answers myriad emails; and, of course, attends meetings.
“My responsibilities are many, but my focus is simple – take care of the library,” she says. “Being a facilities manager during this renovation involves working closely with a community of people that includes the construction crew and their dedicated tradesmen and women, architects, engineers, project managers, designers, an incredibly patient library staff and a phenomenal Facility Services team. It is remarkable to witness all of these areas coming together for one purpose. I call it a well-orchestrated dance that I am grateful to have the privilege of being a part of.”