This week, the University of Rochester Libraries announced that University trustee Barbara J. Burger ‘83 has made a $1 million commitment to the River Campus Libraries to go towards the creation and implementation of the iZone.

The  iZone is a proposed renovation project in Rush Rhees to fill the gap left by other programs and offices on campus. Dean of the Libraries Mary Ann Mavrinac said it was a priority throughout the planning stages not “to duplicate anything already being done,” and that with this project, River Campus Libraries intends to give students the opportunities and the resources they need to explore and develop their ideas.

When taking on entrepreneurial projects, some of the main questions for students are “how to form a team, how to get the skills [they] need to see an idea through,” Mavrinac said. She added that the iZone will connect students with each other, give them the resources to develop skills, form teams, do research and find mentors who can help them take their project to the next level.

The iZone will be on the first floor of Rush Rhees Library, where the IT Center (ITS) is currently. The ITS Help Desk and many of the current workstations will still be in the space. Student feedback, provided by student working groups and open town hall meetings, was the driving force behind this decision. Mavrinac said it was found that students think of the library as a comfortable space. According to her, being situated in an established, welcoming location ensures that students without a business background will still have the opportunity to apply their entrepreneurial spirit.  An entrepreneurial mentality extends beyond business; more generally, it’s about finding innovative and resourceful projects for “social, cultural, community and economic impact.”

This is the second major commitment to the River Campus Libraries announced in the past year. In April, Evans Lam ‘83 made a commitment of $1 million to modernize the area around the circulation desk in Rush Rhees Library.

The iZone is expected to be in place  by Summer 2017 at the earliest. As of now, River Campus Libraries has raised about half of the funds necessary to complete the project. Mavrinac emphasized the Libraries’ commitment to keeping the already established spaces in the library, while still pursuing new projects. “We will always maintain those study spaces, those historical spaces…with that in mind, we need to look into how to respond to 21st century needs,” she said.

Barbara J. Burger serves on both the UR Board of Trustees and the River Campus Libraries National Council. She graduated from UR in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and earned her Ph.D. in 1987 from Caifornia Institute of Technology. In addition to supporting the libraries, she has also given in the past to the UR chemistry department and UR athletics, and established an endowed scholarship in the sciences.

Curtis is a member of the class of 2017.

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