I had a student come talk to me today about the noise in the Library and how frustrated he is with trying to study in an environment that really isn’t conducive to studying. I feel bad for him and other students who value the Library as a place to learn, contemplate and study.
When I first came to Robert Morris in 1978, the Library was just four years old and was a model learning resources center, incorporating the library, academic media and the tutoring center. In addition to the stacks and library offices, seating for about 280 students was provided in several areas on the upper two floors of Patrick Henry. The Quiet Study, consisting of large tables and individual study carrels, accommodated approximately 75 students. Individual and small group study rooms on the upper floors accommodated another 30 or so students. Individual carrels, tables and lounge chairs accounted for the remaining 180 seats. Today, we have 102 seats in the Library, give or take a few. The seating is not spread out and is placed in two open areas of the library. While there are a combination of carrels, tables and lounge chairs, there are no quiet or individual spaces to be had and there are no small group spaces, either.
In the past ten years, the Library has lost about 40% of its space to classrooms, administrative offices and faculty offices. This has put a huge burden on the Library Staff, however given these constraints, I believe we have done a reasonably good job of keeping the noise level in check and providing an environment that in most cases is conducive to studying. But we’re not perfect and there are times when the noise level exceeds acceptable levels. We have to do a better job monitoring ourselves and our users.
The Library as place plays a vital role in the success of any organization whether it is a K-12 Library, a corporate library, a public library or a university library. According to the Association of College & Research Libraries, expectations for library space include an “intellectual commons where users interact with ideas in both physical and virtual environments to expand learning and facilitate the creation of new knowledge”. While libraries can and should act as social spaces, they differ from cafeterias, fitness centers, classrooms and ball fields in tangible and intangible ways and to diminish their footprint is to diminish the academic mission of any educational institution.
So thank you Student A for coming to talk to me. It reminds me that we have to do a better job monitoring the spaces that make for a better learning environment.
–Dr. Fran Caplan, Dean of Libraries