Libraries don't just happen.

Just ask Edward B. Fort, the chancellor at N.C. A&T State University.``I started pushing for a new library two months after I arrived here,' says Fort, now in his 10th year at A&T.

Later this academic year - probably around Easter - the library Fort has wanted for so long will be complete.

``It's been a personal thing,' Fort says. ``You have got to have a good library if you are marketing yourself as a world-class university and that's going to be a reality.'

Earlier this month, Fort got his first good look inside the $16 million library. Even though workmen will be on the site for several months, Fort liked what he saw.

He acted like a kid who had gotten an early Christmas present.

``Every time I see it I get excited,' Fort gushed as he toured three of the building's four levels. ``This library will be a model and prototype for the state.'

It will be quite an improvement over the existing F.D. Bluford Library, which was built in 1954.

The new library will keep the Bluford name, house the same books and provide some of the same services. But there the similarities end.

``It's just simply outgrown it usefulness,' Fort said of the old library, which has never undergone a major renovation.

``We've had to try and adapt here and there,' said Alene Young, who has worked at Bluford since 1959, the last six and a half as director. ``Students have access to everything, but they are so jammed. Things are not as readily accessible. It should be a much more attractive and functional building than we have.'

And then some.

At 144,000 square feet, the new library will be the largest academic building on campus. It will house 600,000 volumes and will seat 1,200 students, double the current library's capacity.

Fort said the new building will have ``an enormously positive impact' on the campus.

It will allow the university to expand its library holdings, enhance existing academic programs, help raise the level of research funding and aid in getting approval of doctoral degrees, he said.

It will also draw a lot of community use. ``That's something we want to stress,' Fort said.

And it will be an attractive addition to the campus.

Located at the corner of East Market and Laurel streets, the building features a three-story portico on its west side. Near the top of the portico is a mammoth version of the university seal.

``It's done in hand sculptured brick, which is a rarity,' said Carl Jobe, architectural project manager for Clinton E. Gravely, AIA, Architect and Associates. ``It's a work of art.'

Inside, the building features a three-story atrium with a skylight that measures approximately 25 feet by 75 feet.

``This is a real showpiece,' Fort said as he climbed the stairs in the atrium.

As he did, Jobe pointed out some of the building's highlights.

There'll be a special collections and rare books room, a 24-hour study area, a laboratory where faculty may prepare instructional materials, study areas for graduate students and faculty research, typing and computer rooms and a seminar/conference room.

``It took two years to put together the educational specifications before the architects got the project,' Fort said.

In 1982, he appointed a task force to determine whether the university needed to remake the existing building or start anew. Not surprisingly, the answer was to build a new library.

Then came the time needed to decide what features the library should have.

After that, the proposal was submitted to the UNC General Administration, which later asked the General Assembly to fund the project.

A&T received some planning money for the project in 1985. It was not until 1987, however, that the legislature provided any construction funds - but only half the amount needed. The second installment came in 1988.

In November of that year, the university broke ground for its new library.

When the library is finished, the old one will be renovated at a cost of $4.8 million.

Its exact use hasn't been determined.

``There are a lot of programs on campus that want this building,' Young said.

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