Board of Trustees Applies for Grant to Revamp Library

Photo by Nicole Williams

On Jan. 12, Ramapo College's Board of Trustees agreed to support a grant proposal that outlines renovations to the George T. Potter Library. Based on the current proposal, the facility will nearly double in size, and the project is estimated to cost roughly $50 million.

According to the current plans, as detailed at the Board of Trustees meeting, the library will offer more space for computers and printers, study rooms and art exhibitions. Despite the increase in overall size, however, space dedicated to book collections might be reduced. Some potential solutions to this lack of space are an expanded digital library or an off-campus repository that would allow students to request a book with the goal of a next-day delivery.  The library will most likely adopt a method of compact shelving, which will prevent the need to reduce the available books or move them off-campus. Other proposals include a cafe, a large rehearsal space or multipurpose room and a banquet hall with a catering kitchen. This space would be available for third party renters.

Many students and faculty members are concerned about the proposed renovations and the way in which they have been drafted without much input from them.

“Any successful design would involve students and faculty, the people who actually use the library,” said Roark Atkinson, a professor of history at Ramapo. “We were assured at the last board of trustees meeting that we would be consulted, even though the administration applied for the grant with the current renovation plan." 

Atkinson also suggested potential issues with some of the proposals. Regarding the reduction of the library's physical collection and reliance on digitization, Atkinson said, “It’s an idea that people are talking essential tools about, but physical texts are, especially for disciplines like history. Also, recent studies show that students not only prefer physical books to ebooks, but that people generally retain information better when they read physical books."

According to Atkinson, however, there is a definite need for renovations. He went on to site problems with water leaks and the potential for mold and damage to ruin some of the collections the Potter library houses.

Emerging Technologies librarian Christina Connor said the changes need to be focused on student behavior.

"When we are asked if we can make extreme changes like moving books off campus, our initial reaction is that we can't,” said Connor. “We are looking to find out students' study habits and what each major actually needs from the library."

Connor added, “We want to focus first on library function and then on other suggested possibilities.  We're currently using student and faculty feedback from surveys administered in 2012, 2014, and 2016, which we will use to help make decisions on suggested improvements.”

Students have shared mixed reactions about the proposed renovations.

"Personally, I would rather have a book in front of me.  I prefer print to digital," said freshman Jaime Velasquez regarding the possibility of the reduction of the physical collection.

Catherine Armstrong, senior, more outspokenly commented that “it is completely unnecessary and impractical to move library resources out of the library."

However, some students do not find the physical copies completely necessary for their own study habits, but still have suggestions about how the space should be used.

"If anything, I would like to see more computers," said freshman Theresa Murray. 

Regarding the idea of a banquet hall and rehearsal room, senior Chris Warren stated, "That's not cool.  The library gets too loud as it is, so we can't have something like that in this space."

Though a grant has been applied for using the current plans for the library, the proposal is still subject to change.