A Library Renovated in Obscurity
By Alexandra Babcock
Obscure changes happening on campus have not been utilized due to the lack of advertising. These improvements are important for the success of students. While much has been accomplished, students and faculty are not as aware of these changes as they should be. Senior undergraduate Biology student, Lucy Moore, was unaware that any changes have been made to the library. For a student that spends much of her free time studying, she wishes she had known of these improvements so that she could utilize the quiet personalized spaces as she finishes off her final semester.
The announcements that have been sent out thus far have been vague and sent via email. These announcements are often lost in translation, as many of the students use their school email for the majority of the interaction with the school, classes, and teachers. Unlike the UCU Pavilion that has its renovations on signs front and center, the library has not had a grand announcement of its changes.
The pandemic put a halt on renovations in the library, however, some of the renovations were finished before the school shut down, and since the school reopened there have been even more. The library has taken an interest in revamping the space to cater to the wants and needs of the students. The incentive behind library renovations is to “update and maximize the space by discovering outdated library collections that are not being utilized by the students. The idea is to create a learning common area with a research hub with the intention of a more centralized space for everyone” (Aaron Sachowitz, Academic Treasurer). The Dean of the Library as well as the Vice Provost and the Academic Treasurer have worked to improve the library as they saw fit to meet the needs and requests of the students.
They began their renovations before the pandemic lockdown by renovating the bathrooms to include an ADA student and staff bathroom as well as a gender-neutral restroom option. Lauren Macdonald, The Dean of the Library and Academic Resources, explains that renovations were done as soon as the school reopened. These renovations were based on student requests so that they may have a space better suited to help them succeed. Also, before lockdown, the library was able to replace outdated shelving units with study rooms and a work bar. These rooms created a nice seating space for the students to get their work done.
The next step in the renovations included noise-canceling technology to meet the needs of the students as the library struggled with noise carrying through the building. The modernized noise-canceling panels were placed "when you walk into the library where the atrium space is located, above the help desk, there are cool mid-century modern grey panels that add a sculpture element to the environment of the building" (Lauren MacDonald). The idea behind this addition was not only to improve the sound but also to integrate an aesthetically functional piece to increase comfort within the walls of the library.
The SDS office has also created sensory rooms on the second floor to launch a completely new reservation-based study setting for both groups and individuals. These rooms have been repainted, equipped with colored lights and sensory toys/objects as well as fun new furniture finished off with cool rugs. The goal was to create a “dark quiet space” for the students, according to MacDonald. She also shared that “creatively moved collections strategically envisioned the space within the library to meet the needs of the student body at Saint Mary’s College."
Along with these renovations that mainly catered to the undergraduate students, the third-floor hallway looking toward the parking lot on the left-hand side of graduate commons was changed. Graduate students were feeling they didn't have a dedicated space for them to do their work, and they needed a space for them to go and get their studies done. Two windows were put in that look out into the library interior to let natural light in, along with technology for presentations, comfortable furniture and seating, artwork, and more.
Knowing about these renovations is important for the faculty and students because they will be able to utilize these accommodations to better succeed in an academic environment. Although there have been some announcements that have gone out, there are students and faculty that are unaware of these changes putting these improvements into a state of obscurity.
These renovations are made to provide better student success, atmosphere, and comfort. Academic libraries are meant to develop the ways in which students find research and study as the technologies of the world change with each generation. These libraries find ways to creatively adapt to the students as the way students engage in academics is always changing and advancing. It is important when making these decisions that all those involved look at the architecture and space of the building to help provide a smooth successful integration into the students’ academic journey. How the space is utilized provides assistance for the students to help them learn and research.
As well as renovations to the library itself, on October 4th, 2021, the library changed its hours to be open later on Sunday-Thursday till 11:00 pm. The library has pushed hard for these improvements with a plan to have the staff involved sit down this Fall and strategize the rest of the developments. Eyewitnesses have confirmed these renovations and encourage students to go check out the cool new improvements to academic learning research in the library.
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Ryan Ford '23,