Hillman opens first and second floors, closes ground floor for renovations


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

A sign outside of Hillman Library advertising the new entrance to the first floor.

By Punya Bhasin and Allison Radziwon

After several semesters of construction, the first and second floors of Hillman Library have opened to the Pitt community. While floors one, two, three and four are open for use, the ground floor is now closed for renovations. 

Students can enter on the side of the building using an accessible ramp on Forbes Avenue, since the main entrance on the ground floor is closed. The newly renovated floors feature a muted color scheme of gray and white with a few pops of color including a set of teal sofas on the second floor, as well as a large open study area and some private study spaces. 

When students need a caffeine boost while studying, Saxbys Coffee — which has two other shops on campus — is located on the first floor. 

Renovations on the first and second floors began in July 2021. When the properties and facilities committee of Pitt’s Board of Trustees approved the project, it came with a $34 million price tag. Renovations for these floors were supposed to start in fall 2020, but the University opted to delay the updates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kayla Bago, a junior neuroscience major, said she really likes the new renovations. 

“It feels very modern and there’s a lot of natural light, so it helps a lot with studying,” Bago said. “I’m glad it feels very open so even when there’s lots of people it doesn’t feel cramped.”

Kaylee Samuel, a junior neuroscience major, said they think the renovations will help promote collaboration between students.

“The renovations are very focused on collaborations because of how many big tables are on the first floor,” Samuel said. 

Samuel also said they find the layout confusing and wish there were more signs. 

“I wish there was more color, and that there were more signs to direct people around the new space,” Samuel said.

The final phase of the renovations — which Pitt estimates will finish in December 2024 — will work on the ground floor, elevators and bathrooms. These renovations will contain 18 reservable rooms for group study, a new space and lab for the Digital Scholarship Commons, a media lab with editing rooms, a video studio, updated elevators and bathrooms, a centrally located information desk and a Pitt IT computer lab.

Pitt closed Hillman Library from March to August 2020 because of the pandemic, and opened during the 2020-21 academic year with limited capacity and hours.

Renovations on the fourth floor started in May 2018, and they finished in August 2018. The third floor opened in August 2020. Pitt announced a five-year makeover of the library in 2016.

A team of Pitt librarians also started the Belonging at Pitt Libraries research project in spring 2022 to enlist student perspectives on how to create a sense of belonging in Pitt’s libraries. The findings were displayed in an exhibit titled “Student Voices: Creating a Place of Belonging” at the end of November on an interactive media wall on the third floor of Hillman Library.

A University spokesperson said students can follow the renovations and library updates on the Hillman Library Reinvention website.

Hillman Library will be the principal hub of intellectual activity on campus providing services, resources and inspiring spaces — from vibrant to serene — that advance academic study, stimulate innovation in knowledge creation, encourage intellectual exploration and creativity, and foster energetic collaborative exchange,” the website said.