Editorial: Make library competitive

Posted by the Editorial Board

In the past Scribner Library has played host to mobs of panicked students during the last weeks of the semester, but this year is different. Increasing academic challenges and a growing student body crowd more desks for longer hours. For the library to continue serving the campus as well as it has in previous years, administrators need to come up with creative solutions to keep up with increasing use of the library.

Throughout most of the semester, the library perfectly meets studying demands. Cozy window seats and partitioned desks let students immerse themselves in their work, while study groups find homes in study rooms and a social first floor. Exhibits and the Special Collections Room make the building a location for purposes other than writing papers, and the students employed at the Office of Information Technology and the Writing Center provide help to their peers throughout the year.

But during the most academically demanding weeks of the semester these services only go so far. During these weeks the library needs to do more than just close the doors an hour later at night. They should pilot a semester-long program of leaving just the first floor of the library open all night during midterms and finals weeks, accommodating the many students who would utilize late-night access to computers and printers. We predict that if given a chance, a plan like this would see desks filled until far later than 2 a.m.

Instead of locating the Office of Student Academic Services in the distant and administrative Barrett Center, students should be able to find peer tutors right where and when they study. Administrators can replace one of the building's arbitrarily placed classrooms with space devoted to SAS and begin to employ students on-call during evening hours for their peers' department-specific needs, augmenting the increasingly overbooked Writing Center.

With student demand for study rooms always high – and, at this time of year, reaching a fever pitch – administrators should reconsider placing department offices in a building already bursting at the seams. They should look to relocate the incongruously placed Art History Department, repurposing those offices and classrooms to better suit students' needs.

For students experiencing undue amounts of stress during this time of year, a trained student or professional counselor should be available to help until the library closes. The college should not only help students in distress between nine and five, five days a week. Having counseling services available at night for those students in need will ensure that, at this time of year, students are not alone in moments in crisis.

But the changes that could help the library more effectively serve students do not have to entail large-scale changes of rearranging space and paying new staff. The college could further promote collaborative and supportive learning by encouraging students to advertise casual study sessions on the downstairs white board, so that any classmates might feel comfortable stopping in for a quick question. They should consider covering the walls with a constantly evolving cycle of pieces by the college's talented artists, rather than arbitrarily chosen pieces from the college's art collection. The library might even consider installing options for refreshments – be they as exciting as a late-night coffee bar or as mundane as a vending machine – to accommodate the hundreds of students studying late into the night.

These are the weeks where the library emblemizes the academic engagement and commitment to learning that makes the college increasingly competitive among fellow liberal arts institutions. The college needs to listen to students now, more than ever, and make the changes that will facilitate, rather than impede, those students' academic success.

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