Library revs up resources, reconsiders procedures
MICHAEL WESTHOFF THE WASHTENAW VOICE
As the Richard W. Bailey Library and Computer Commons sees record-high use with record-high enrollment, it adjusts with new approaches to ease the strain—and curtail a repeat of student confrontations.
“We’ve always been busy, but this semester we have noticed that a lot more students really show up,” said Victor Liu, dean of Learning Resources, from his office on the first floor of the Bailey Library. “The number of heads coming in and out has greatly increased.”
One result of the increase is an increase in resources; the college will add 40 new computers to the second floor Computer Commons in early October, tentatively Oct. 2. The Commons has had around 160 computers since 2002.
“When we moved into this building in 2002, we thought, ‘Oh, what a huge Computer Commons,’” Liu said. “Now all the sudden it doesn’t seem so huge anymore. All of the students really need to use computers on campus to do their homework and research, so we really have to increase the number of workstations.”
When the college first built the Computer Commons, it left room for expansion, said Dan Taylor, public computing coordinator for the library.
“With increased enrollment we decided to go forth and do it,” Taylor said. “We definitely needed the expansion.”
The Computer Commons will add eight new Macs to bring the total Mac stations to around 40. Four of the new Macs will add to and replace the two video editing stations, which are outdated and overused.
“We are upgrading and changing them, because the stations are used for both video editing and animation students who need to come in and do their assignments,” Taylor said.
“Right now they get used quite heavily, because the students do the kind of assignments that don’t just take 10 minutes—they take hours and hours.”
There will also be 32 new PCs, bringing the total to around 160.
The first floor of the Bailey Library seats 250, but the space issue has mainly been with group-study rooms, of which there are 11.
“Especially during certain periods of the semester like around midterms or finals or the beginning of the semester, there are a lot more people coming in, and they really want to use group study rooms, which are first-come-first-serve,” Liu said. “We could always use more student study space, but basically we are confined by the configuration here.”
To use the spaces in the most efficient way possible, the library has made a policy that if there is only one student in a group-study room, it reserves the right to ask that person to leave and use the study carrel instead.
“That happens pretty often,” Liu said.
“Students like to have a lot of space to spread out, and they are just going to have to consolidate the space they have and share the space that is available,” said Bethany Kennedy, director of access services at the library.
More and more groups have to study within the library common space, and starting last year the library began to experience student conflict over noise level.
“We have two sets of demands,” Liu said. “One is students who want dead quiet, and the other is more of the group study type, so there are competing demands.”
To keep conflict under control, library staff periodically walks around about every hour, though sometimes less or more if needed, and asks louder groups to keep the noise down.
“We started last year, but we will continue to be more vigilant this year,” Liu said. “This year, knowing that there will be a lot more students coming in, we want to do a conscientious effort about doing walk around and monitoring the noise level.”
In Winter 2009, the library asked Campus Safety and Security to visit more frequently to help monitor noise level and conflict, but decided it was better for the library staff to complete the regular walk around.
“The library staff is more attuned to the needs of students – they deal with them day in and day out,” Liu said. “But now and then, when people get hot about fighting for a group study room and they’re using abusive language, we’ll call security over. That doesn’t happen very often.”
The library’s research material has not experienced much strain, however, mainly because the library has shifted its funds from print to electronic resources over the last few years.
“With the needs of students nowadays, they want resources online,” Liu said. “We have 18,000 electronic journals spread out over about 45 research databases, so that’s more than enough to support the needs of students.”
But library reserves, the textbooks faculty provide for students to use on a two-hour basis, are “being utilized heavily,” Kennedy said.
“You would think there would be fewer people coming into the library because they can access so much online, but libraries nationwide don’t see that trend at all,” Liu said. “Libraries have always served as not just a provider of resources; there’s always this idea of library as a place, meaning people want to come into the library because they want to be around resources or around people in group study – that want to be in that space to do work.
“Library as a sense of place for studying seems to be very important, and continues to be important to students.”