In May, a newsletter from President Duffett announced that phase one of Eastern’s long-term Master Plan for the St. Davids campus was revised to include “cosmetic renovations to Walton Hall and Kea-Guffin, renovations to Warner Library to establish a Learning Commons, and construction of an indoor practice venue.” Though details and timelines are still being discussed and are subject to change, renovations to Warner Library are currently slated to be one of the next projects that the university undertakes. Right now, the vision that is being developed includes a revamping of the main floor of the library to include Student Success Advisor offices and a help desk where students can ask IT questions. This vision also involves the possibility of relocating the Jammin’ Java from Walton to the library and reconfiguring the space where the Eagle’s Nest is located to be a more accommodating communal space. Providing coffee in libraries is an increasing trend among colleges; as President Duffett notes, “Throughout the country the overwhelming student response to a coffee bar in the library is positive.”
Up until now, the development of this vision for the library has happened mostly among executive leadership and the Board. However, once plans materialize, more community input will be gathered. As Pernell Jones, Vice President for Finance and Operations, explains, “It’s something we will be working on through the fall semester—to get input not only from the library staff, but from people in academic areas as well—students, to get their perspective on it.” The underlying goal of this project, as Jones and Duffett have expressed, is to help students be more effective in the classroom and to be more successful as they eventually move into whatever career they choose. The hope is that having virtually all of the resources that students need to thrive academically located in one space will help Eastern to meet that goal.
Obviously, space would have to be created in the library in order for these changes to be made. Dr. Jim Sauer, Director of University Library, has already been collaborating with architects to consider how this might be achieved. One strategy will be to reduce the number of physical books, especially reference materials, in the library’s collection while continually increasing access to online books and resources so that, as Sauer puts it, “the library will become more streamlined, and you’ll actually have more access than ever before.” Sauer has also made suggestions to the architects regarding methods of preserving study space through soundproofing and glass dividers. As far as study space goes, Jones notes, “I don’t think the third floor will be impacted, so that will still provide an opportunity for quiet solitude for students to study.”
As news of the proposed changes begins to circulate, some students are already expressing satisfaction with the proposed changes.
“Lots of places have great libraries with coffee shops incorporated into them,” junior Ciara Nelson notes. “If Eastern can do that without sacrificing the great study space it is, why not?”
Students have also made positive comments about the idea of having IT help, Student Success Advisors and other academic resources located in the same space. As sophomore Morgan Woodworth puts it, “That would be a nice little bubble of helpfulness.”
Other students are already voicing significant concerns, especially regarding the relocation of the Jammin’ Java to the library. Many students are upset about this prospect and are fearful that quiet study space will not be protected and the culture of the library will change in a way that may damage the academic integrity of the university. Sophomore Anthony Barr explains, “The Jammin’ Java is a noisy place we go to encounter others….The library, on the other hand, is a quiet place where we encounter books. Placing the former in the latter disrupts the life of the library and undermines the important function of the Jammin’ Java.”
Though many students like the idea of a learning commons, some feel that the library is not the appropriate place for it.
“What the Master Plan entails for the library seems fun and interesting,” senior Carrie Bonson explains. “It really seems like they want a space to be used as a good resource for the students. However, I do not think the library is a good place for that space….From working at the library and using it just as a student, I have seen it get pretty full. I know from experience that all of the space is utilized, and adding more to the library might actually take away from students rather than give.”
It is difficult to say exactly what changes will be implemented in the library, or when such changes will begin to take root. What is clear, however, is that Eastern’s community is far from being in agreement on the subject, and a great deal of dialogue between all parties concerned will be necessary to determine what is best for the life of the university.
Sources: Interviews With Robert Duffett, Pernell Jones, Jim Sauer, Lisa Titus; eastern.edu