Most of the reference books, journals, maps, videos and DVDs have vanished from the first floor of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. That’s because Carol Hixson, library dean, is livening things up.
Hixson said she has been working to strengthen the library’s connection with students by making it a place for collaboration and interaction. Collections on the first floor have been “weeded out” or moved to “bring the first floor to life,” Hixson said.
“People want a variety of styles and spaces,” Hixson said. “There is really no such thing as ‘what the students want’ because they like different things, and they don’t want the same thing all of the time.”
Students are encouraged to move and rearrange the new furniture on the first floor of the library. Much of it is on wheels. An individual can pull a chair to a favorite spot, and groups can create meeting areas with just the right table and seating arrangements. White boards can be used as temporary walls to increase privacy.
“There is no ‘where furniture belongs’ on the first floor,” said Tina Neville, head of library public services.
Coffee tables, floor and table lamps, couches, lounge chairs and ottomans make it easy for some students to feel at home in the library.
Christian Wintsch, a first year graduate student in the MBA program, said he likes to sit in his favorite chair with his legs outstretched on an ottoman. His computer fit nicely on a small, moveable tray attached to his chair. Wintsch said he comes to the library five or six days a week.
“It’s comfy,” Wintsch said. The more comfortable you are, the better you study and concentrate. It’s appealing, you have the view, you can lay back, it’s not constraining, it’s free-flowing. The surroundings are always changing on a daily basis, you do not know what to expect – things move.”
Ricky Cherry, a junior majoring in marketing, comes to the library five days a week for about four hours. He said the library’s ambiance is one of the reasons he stays on campus between classes, even though he only has a 12-minute commute.
“This is perfect, looking at the water, like you’re at home on your own couch,” Cherry said. “It’s relaxing and doesn’t make studying as big of a chore. It’s nice, a place to get away or get some work done. This illustrates that they care, and that we have a voice. I feel that students must have recommended this.”
“When I see people from class, we move the furniture closer together and this breaks the ice,” said Cherry.
In 2011, Hixson directed a Library Space Allocation Committee to look into redesigning the use of space in the library. Neville chaired the committee which studied library space design, learned about renovations in other libraries, and found out what students thought a library should offer.
Students participated in focus groups, and were given outline drawings of the library so they could fill in their ideas about using the space, said librarian Deborah Henry.
It was a surprise that some of the students like to be near books to put them in the mood for studying, and this is why the leisure reading collections remain on the first floor, Hixson explained.
Some students would prefer a quieter study area on the first floor, which is not designated as a quiet zone, Hixson said. She said that after new carpet is installed between the spring and summer semesters, an area on the first floor will be enclosed with glass walls to create a Scholars’ Lounge.
Another change will add to the number of computers students can use, in a layout that is more private and with more room to spread out than in the existing horseshoe configuration, Hixson said.
Hixson, Neville and Henry said they would love to have a café in the library, as would many students, but it is not completely under their control — financial and special issues would have to be addressed.
In the meantime, students are welcome to bring food and nonalcoholic beverages into the library (deliveries from restaurants are not allowed), as long as there are no open drinks at the computers and no food or drinks in special collections.
Henry said a student was stacking a small table on an upholstered chair to make a higher stand for his laptop, which he used while writing on a white board. Henry said they put a speaker’s podium in the vicinity where the student studies, and he found and used it, pulling out a flat shelf for his computer and using the slanted top for his book. She said he inquired if it was all right to use the podium, and he was pleased when she told him “we put it there for you.”
The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library is and will remain a work in progress.
“I would eventually like to call the library something other than a library,” said Hixson.
For now, Hixson said she uses a pet name, “Not Your Grandmother’s Library.”