Library Looks to Make Changes

With new roofing on the academic complex, G-building construction underway and the groundbreaking for the highly-anticipated Adler Center for Excellence in Nursing, Ramapo College is certainly renewing its dedication to improving and expanding the campus. But some students may feel the College has been overlooking one key area in all of these upgrades: the George T. Potter Library.

Not for long, however. The library has been taking steps to prepare for possible renovation since last semester and is currently compiling feedback from the Library Space Survey, which was sent out to the campus community earlier in the fall.

Library Dean Elizabeth Sieke said the College has had its eye on the $750 million higher education facilities bond, which was approved by voters in November, to use for potential library renovations. Sieke said President Peter Mercer "earmarked" the library as one of the places on campus with room for improvement, so after having their own discussions about possible projects, the library staff turned to the campus community for more suggestions.

"We knew that the bond referendum was available and that the library may be one of the areas that [the College] would look to improve," Sieke explained. The Library Space Survey received 188 responses, which all mostly "confirmed" what the library staff thought students and faculty might want to see improved.

One of the main findings of the study was that a majority of students (72 percent) are looking to use the library primarily to study, and many respondents requested more spaces to do so, both individually and in groups. More computer lab space was also suggested, and respondents voiced a need to make the library more "laptop-friendly" (by adding more power outlets, etc.).

"It seems that students like to leave the dorm to study, and there are more and more students on campus," Sieke explained. "We have wireless, but it's difficult for students who come in [now], and there are very limited outlets."

Senator-at-Large Mathieu Odula, a junior and SGA liaison to the library, said that one of the solutions he has proposed to accommodate this request is to install more cubicles on the fourth floor to create private study areas. He hopes this is a small project that can be done inexpensively over the summer.

"I envision cubicles where the Dean's Office is on the fourth floor of the library," Odula said. "It gets noisy around there. That's a lot of space."

Sieke and Odula have also been working together on another common request from students: extended hours.

"I did a manual survey in December asking people if they would like a change in library hours on Saturdays," Odula explained, to better reflect students' weekend schedules.

Currently, the library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, but Odula said if students are out late on Friday nights, they might not be able to get to the library for a sufficient amount of time before it closes. So, he and Sieke decided to initiate a pilot program to open the library from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting March 30.

"We're going to open 11 to 7 rather than 9 to 5, and we're going to see how that works," Sieke said. "That's a small step we can take, because…for us to change the hours [completely], that's a big deal. That requires personnel and more funding."

The new Saturday hours, set to begin after Spring Break, will be fulfilled by library staff. Odula said this arrangement will still give students a good four to five hours of study time in the library even if they wake up late.

Aside from these two larger projects, both Sieke and Odula expressed interest in freshening up the library's look.

Sieke said in the survey, many respondents wanted the library to "modernize" for personal computers, install better lighting and update the décor.

"I know the 70s is in now, but maybe not in the carpet, right?!" Sieke quipped. 

Odula agreed, saying the basement floor is definitely in need of attention.

"It's 40 years old-it has to go!" he said. "We're in the 21st century. We need to paint it [and] make it look good."

While all of these plans may be far off into the future, Sieke said that the library is taking the community's concerns into consideration if and when the opportunity arises to renovate.

"My understanding was…it was very important to the students that this survey would be used," she said. "It will not be sitting on a shelf somewhere, that's for sure. We're really excited and looking forward to this, and the more feedback we have from students, the more helpful it is to us to bring these plans into fruition."