A proposal to turn most of the DeWitt Wallace Library’s second floor into an entrepreneur’s space was discussed publicly for the first time at a library feedback session on Tuesday.
The talk was the second of four discussions on improving library operations. It gathered about 10 students as well as administrators from the library, ITS, and Administration and Finance staff in the Barbara B. Davis SPACE (Scholarship Partnership and Collaborative Engagement).
Associate Director of the Library Angi Faiks opened the discussions by highlighting overlaps between the library’s mission and the goals of the college’s entrepreneurship program.
The proposed alteration was couched under broader shifts in library use. “We used to be about storing books, storing information, but we’re no longer about that because so much has changed,” said Instruction and Research librarian Beth Hilleman. She added that changes to the second floor have been in the works for a long time.
In Faiks’ view, the library’s accessibility to all members of the Macalester community made it well-positioned to host the space. She added that the choice of the second floor was due to its relative proximity to the entrance, while the basement did not have enough natural light.
Faiks emphasized that there are not yet any renderings of what the space will look like. “I don’t think anything’s been put on paper in any sense of the word,” she said. However, she described a creative space with “everything from a quiet reflective space… to the maker’s space and tinker space.”
Administrators sought student input before coming up with the plan. They repeatedly emphasized the multidisciplinary nature of the space. “It will be for all types of creation,” said David Wheaton, Vice President of Administration and Finance. He said the space will be constantly evolving based on ongoing discussions with students.
Library Director Teri Angel repeated this point when she emphasized the long-term nature of the project even though there will be “a variety of changes this summer.”
The most certain change will be the removal of books and shelves from the second floor. The rare books collection and archives will be retained, according to Angel.
Books will be shifted to other floors while some titles will be removed altogether. Katy Gabrio, Assistant Director of the library, told The Mac Weekly that she was already identifying hardbound geology journals for withdrawal.
Decisions to remove titles hinge on patronage and their availability on online platforms. She also said that titles had to be available at a multitude of nearby partner libraries to be considered.
The library’s physical collection shrank after the conclusion of a three year review that ended last year. Gabrio said she does not know how many additional cuts will be required.
These moves will free up 7,500 square feet of space, many of which might not be necessary for the space.
“On some level I’m not sure if they need much more than two offices, you won’t be able to tell where it stops and starts,” Wheaton said.
The Innovators space in the basement of Markim Hall may serve as a blueprint. It occupies 1,000 square feet and is currently used by classes offered through the entrepreneurship program.
It occupies 1,000 square feet and is currently used by classes in the entrepreneurship program.
In an email to The Mac Weekly, Entrepreneur in Residence Kate Ryan Reiling ’00 said she envisions a collaborative space based on student feedback.
She spelled out possible functions from serving day-to-day needs like “a place to collaborate on homework” to a place to make art and “tinker with legos and Google Cardboard.” The space will provide “a place for 2D designers to work with computer scientists.”
The impetus for the proposal came from what she feels is a longing for collaborative spaces. “It is the number one thing students ask me about as they search for others dreaming of new possibilities in the world, they want to know, where are the others,” she said.
Ryan Reiling was absent from the conversation. No representatives from the entrepreneurship program were present due to scheduling issues, Faiks said.
Students acknowledged the merits of having creative spaces. One suggestion that received widespread agreement was having a performance space that replicated 10K, a black-box room in the basement of Dupre Hall the closing if which sparked controversy at the start of last semester.
Logan Stapleton ’18 wondered if noise from the new second floor space would affect the third floor. He was also concerned about the loss of study space, arguing that it was already “hard to find quiet areas for contemplation on campus.”
Many students objected to the use of the term “entrepreneurs.” Yafiet Bezabih ’18 suggested that the space be called a “project space” or “innovators’ space.”
Ilana Bundenosky ’17 said, “[I]t is odd for me to put these processes through the term entrepreneurship, because it does have this business, financial, capitalist definition.”
Cleo Young ’17 said, “People are suspicious of the whole change itself.” She saw the name as a convenient way to emphasize the college’s commitment to entrepreneurship, which first appeared as an area of focus in Macalester’s most recent strategic plan, released in January of 2015.
Young said its addition reflected the need “for a liberal arts college to produce alumni who go on to do profitable things.“This emphasized a transactional type of education. “It’s really on our minds and people are stressed about this, are hurting about this because there is this sense… [that] you’re going to have to in some way accumulate wealth,” she said.
Her comments immediately drew a response from Angel, who said “I need everyone to stand down because entrepreneurship doesn’t mean making money.”
The library will be hosting two more feedback sessions from 11:30 a.m to 1 p.m on March 28 and April 25. These will discuss the library’s collection and digital publishing, respectively.