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La Serena Library & Casino

Facility Improvements Funded through NOAO
AURA Recinto Library/Casino Committee Report

May 19, 2011

This report addresses the recommendations from the Committee that was formed to explore possible modifications to the CTIO Library and adjacent areas for the provision of a Staff Interaction Area and a Casino/Cafeteria.

The Committee members are:

  • Jeff Barr
  • Andrea Kunder
  • Leonor Opazo
  • Eduardo Segovia
  • Eduardo Toro
  • Ana Veliz
  • Helena Vincke

To develop these recommendations the Committee has:

  • Held four in-person meetings
  • Created a Wiki page to compile and share information
  • Field measured for accurate dimensions of the spaces and existing furnishings
  • Developed and discussed layout options
  • Investigated costs and procurement issues
  • Investigated logistical and code considerations
  • Conducted an employee survey regarding potential use of a casino
  • Visited the casino meal service venue of a similar sized local business

General Commentary:

The overall reaction to this potential project, expressed in formal and informal interactions between the Committee and coworkers, has been very positive – especially with respect to the potential on–site Casino/Cafeteria area for lunches, breaks, and a variety of other meetings. This area will be key to the success of the project. The desires of staff with regard to the nature of the Casino and the food service are varied, so this area should allow for multiple options. The Staff Interaction Area also has the potential to be a very actively used informal meeting space which could logically be related to activities in both the Casino and the Library and could serve as a kind of interface between them. The reorganization of the Library into a smaller area than it currently occupies in order to facilitate this project is feasible, although due consideration should be given to the concerns of the current Library users. The recommended floor plan layout (attached) takes these general factors into account. The following are specific considerations about the different proposed areas – keyed by letter to the plan. Click on each letter to view the area in plan.

Click on the paragraph headers below to view each area in plan.

A. Library (upper area)

The upper part of the existing Library has advantageous features that should be retained. The location of the Librarian's desk is an appropriate control point for the Library and its adjacency to the front lobby also provides useful back up to the Reception function for the organization. The visitor computer workstations and printers, also in a useful location, are frequently used and are a considered to be an essential part of any modern library facility. The Committee recommends possibly relocating some of the reference stacks to this upper area, but otherwise only making minimal modifications to its layout.

B. Library (lower area)

This area is recommended to serve mainly for the book stacks that are to be retained. There are approximately 16 shelves (3 ft x 1 ft x 7 ft.) of science references and books other than journals all of which would be kept available in the Library. The historical sets of periodical journals currently take up the majority of the stack space. If this were reduced to only a one-year collection of the most recent editions, they would require less than 10 shelves. The other older journals would be stored in off-site location. Since all the journals are now available on-line, this is considered to be an acceptable accommodation. The attached layout shows 27 shelf units on the lower level and 4 additional shelf units above which should be adequate for a current collection and some expansion space. The magazine racks and reading tables at the north window in the Lower Library Area are well utilized and would be retained in the recommended new layout.

C. Staff Interaction Area

This area is envisioned as a relocation and improvement of the existing staff tea area in the current Library. In addition to relocating the arrangement of comfortable sofas and chairs, there would be a white board, a flat panel TV for programs of interest and videoconferencing as well as a projection screen big enough to also serve the adjacent Casino area. The appropriate relationship of this area to both the Library and Casino is somewhat uncertain at this early planning stage. Some long-term flexibility should be allowed for possibly with deployable partitioning. The flooring and finishes that are used in the Casino should be extended into the Staff Interaction Area to allow it to serve as a somewhat more private extension of the dining area. A coffee dispenser (possibly relocating the existing one in the mail room), would be provided either here or conveniently close in the Casino.

D. Casino/Cafeteria

This area should allow for a variety of dining and meeting options utilized by up to 50 staff and visitors at a time. With regard to food service, the majority of the ˜60 respondents to the survey expressed a preference for a purchased meal with a full Comida de Casa lunchtime menu. Providing for this full-service potential, while also accommodating the less service-intensive options of self preparation, snack foods and vending machines, would be key to the optimal development of the Casino space. An existing example of a full Casino service was visited by the Committee and the advice of the CTIO food preparation staff was also sought. Logistical feasibility for the full-meal service and other options is addressed below in the descriptions of the food preparation related areas. Financial feasibility of the full-meal service would need to be verified as well. The layout of the Casino in the attached plan is intended to allow any of the various food service options, as well as the potential use of this space for other types of formal and informal gatherings that have been suggested. A set of movable tables and chairs would be provided, perhaps shared interchangeably with the Outdoor Patio. The finishes of the Casino dining area would be a ceramic tile or vinyl floor and a refurbishment of the existing ceiling and walls. If affordable, or as a future improvement, an upgrade to the existing lighting would be desirable throughout this area and the Staff Interaction Area.

E. Self Serve Area

As part of the Casino there would be an area with vending machines, dish cabinets, sink, microwave oven(s), refrigerator and small cook top. To maximize the budget and to encourage the use of this new Casino, the existing modular kitchenette unit in the main building could be relocated here. Other amenities here could be a refrigerated glass-front case and a coffee dispenser, if not provided in the Staff Interaction Area. This space should remain available for self-service use by staff at all hours, even if a more full-service meal service were to be provided during the lunch hour.

F. Meal Service Area

The requirements for this area would be determined by the extent of the service provided. The layout shown assumes that a vendor would prepare the food off-site in their own kitchen facilities and bring it for sale to staff in the Casino. Space for a hot-dish serving line is shown on the plan, which could be provided either by the vendor or by possibly by AURA if multiple rotating vendors are anticipated. A dishwashing area would also be necessary. It is possible that the existing kitchenette in the main building could be retained in its current location and used for on-site food preparation, but this would involve a number of logistical complications. Regardless of whether the food is prepared on site or off, any food service area is required by code to have hand-washing and dressing areas nearby. The existing restrooms in the main building should be adequate to satisfy that requirement. Concerns have been raised regarding cooking odors in proximity to the windows of the existing conference room and offices. The exhaust system, which is also a code requirement for any food service area, would need to be designed to effectively prevent the drifting of food–related odors to adjacent areas.

G. Outdoor Patio

Providing an outdoor Patio area would be essential to maximizing the comfortable and flexible use of the Casino dining area, and would generally be a welcome amenity for the facility. The central courtyard south of the existing library and adjacent to the proposed Casino location is an advantageous location for this, due to the natural protection provided by the surrounding buildings and the attractive existing landscaping. The recommended plan includes a sliding door between the Casino and the Patio, a set of movable outdoor tables and chairs, and some form of hard pavement, which is required by code in outdoor areas connected to dining areas. A shade structure over the patio, preferably deployable for seasonal use, could also be provided.

H. Utilities

Some connection to existing utility infrastructure and possibly some new utility improvements will be necessary for this project, the logistics of which have not been investigated extensively by the Committee. The provision of hot & cold water and waste lines for sink(s) in the Casino would be required. Mechanical ventilation would be required in the kitchen area, the extent of which would be dependent on the nature of anticipated food preparation. The available electrical power in the existing building would probably be adequate for the proposed new uses, but that would need to be verified. The plan also includes an exterior area for trash containers and possibly for gas canisters to feed kitchen equipment. Only the general feasibility of these and other required utility improvements has been verified as part of this initial study. Further investigation would be required to determine the methods and costs for providing the necessary utility connections and improvements.

Budget & Procurement:

The Committee has investigated initial costs for the necessary building modifications and equipment.

The total for the building modifications described is approximately $23,000 USD. This approximate amount was initially estimated for the original scheme for the project and subsequently verified for the revised layout and scope. This budget could potentially be reduced by minimizing the building modifications to just those immediately necessary, for example deferring the construction of the outdoor shade structure.

No definitive information is available to assess the cost of utility infrastructure modifications required for the project. It is assumed that this would be undertaken as part of the building modification contract, supported as required by AURA maintenance personnel. A rough guess for the additional materials and labor cost of this work is $3,000 USD.

A minimum complement of equipment is estimated to cost approximately $7,000 USD. This amount could be reduced by reuse of existing equipment, as suggested in several areas above.

These preliminary estimates are not comprehensive for all of the potential improvements addressed in this report and do not include the full complement of equipment that would be necessary for a full meal service Casino. An initial step in going forward with this project would be the establishment of a firm scope and budget as determined by further development and consensus. With some discretionary application of funding to the highest priority elements, the Committee suggests that a reasonable budget for the project would be between $25,000 to $35,000.

Contracting of the building modifications and purchasing of equipment would be expected to be handled through the normal AURA procurement processes. The appropriate method for possibly contracting a meal service concession is not yet clear. The proprietor of the casino service that the Committee visited indicated that a financial contract with the parent organization is the normal means, but that a purchase of meals directly by employees is possible as well. For a typical Comida de Casa a per-meal price of approximately $3,000 CLP was suggested.


The Committee strongly recommends proceeding with this project. It would take good advantage of an underutilized central space in the existing building to provide amenities that have often been considered desirable for the AURA organization in Chile. The nature of the food service concession, while not the core of the Charge to the Committee, emerged in discussions as an important factor for further consideration and definition. Though the recommended budget is somewhat higher than initially suggested, the planning of the project should be flexible enough to take good advantage of whatever resources are available.

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