Students and staff react to library redesign
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Students and staff react to library redesign

Library staff sit at the new combined service desk on the first floor of the Dewitt Wallace Library. Library specialist Jesse Sawyer ‘07 described the changes as fitting the evolving role of libraries and librarians. Photo by Naomi Guttman ‘16.
Library staff sit at the new combined service desk on the first floor of the Dewitt Wallace Library. Library specialist Jesse Sawyer ‘07 described the changes as fitting the evolving role of libraries and librarians. Photo by Naomi Guttman ‘16.

After a redesign over the summer, a sign in DeWitt Wallace Library asked the question, “What do you think of the new space?” Students had differing reactions.

Last year, the library had three separate service desks. The circulation and reserve desks were together to the left of the entrance, the reference desk was in the middle of the first floor and the technology service desk was in the basement. Now, all four services are combined where the reference desk was last year.

Several internal and external surveys of the library indicated that the layout of the library was in need of change.

“In the past, we asked patrons to self-select and find, say, the reference desk,” said library specialist Jesse Sawyer ’07. “However, the majority of patrons who came in with reference questions weren’t aware of which service desk they needed.”

In addition to helping students, the new layout is also meant to benefit employees.

“We’re excited that the reference librarians are closer to circulation, technology and other public services,” Sawyer said. “We’re hoping that this will lead to helpful collaborations between the different departments.”

First-years like Meghan Storlie ’17 did not have any reference for the changes.

“I was going into the library to get information for my work-study, and saw the whiteboard asking about students’ opinions about the library redesign,” she said. “I didn’t know what that was about, but student workers from last year were really excited about the new layout.”

Sawyer said students are interacting with library staff and using library services differently.

“Students come to reserved books, which leads to discussion on their project, which leads to, ‘Here meet Beth, she’s your reference librarian,’” he said.

“Basically, more in depth consultations result and patrons receive more help and resources.”

The library was also repainted and recarpeted. Scanners were moved from the basement to the main floor. There are also more computer clusters and spaces for students to gather.

“I used the scanners for the first time today and it’s super nice that they’re on the first floor now and not in the basement,” Jill Merrick ’16 said. However, not everyone is enthused by the changes. Kevin Dowling ’16 did not appreciate the new layout.

“Since I’ve grown accustomed to the old library,” he said, “having one large desk in the middle of the room seems somewhat inherently wrong.”

According to Provost Kathy Murray, the library was next on a list of campus resources to receive funding for renovations.

“We worked within our usual process for setting priorities for the College-wide TEM (technology, equipment, maintenance) budget,” Murray wrote in an email. “The library renovation was on the list from the beginning and emerged as one of the projects to be funded in this cycle.”

Sawyer explained how the layout changes related to broader changes in how librarians work.

“The changing role of the librarian means space needs to change correspondingly,” he said. “There is now need for more collaboration room, as the library becomes less of a repository for books, and more of a place for people to connect.”

In order to meet the library’s patron service standards, staff meets daily to assess conditions. They also appreciate patron feedback, so let them in on your thoughts, because real change is happening in the library every day.

September 27, 2013

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