A new hall of books

Ishika Jain, Editorial Board Member

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Most of you most likely walk past the hall where the library once was. If you’ve been in that hall recently, you have probably seen that the library that once used to be filled with books and lounge areas is now an empty space. Fear not because the library still exists – it’s just in the lecture hall now. Oakton is beginning its renovation process, and the library was one of the first to transition into a temporary space. There were and still are a lot of components to the temporary library that Oakton’s two librarians, Ms. Karen Rowley and Ms. Rebecca Newland, sorted out and tell us about below.  

The old library was a lot bigger than the lecture hall, where the library is located in now. Ms. Rowley and Ms. Newland tried their best to preserve all of the books and include as many collections they could on the shelves of the new library. Every year, the librarians do a thorough “weeding” of the books, where they get rid of the books that are not being checked out as much or are out of date. They went through all of the book collections and weeded out the ones that were not as popular and made sure that the books they did have would fit on the shelves and were the books that students would want to check out. Not only did they comb through the extensive amount of books, but they also planned out the details of the shelving for the temporary library. They made sure that there was enough shelf space to include the collection they had chosen and made sure there was enough space to add more books in the future.

With every change comes its ups and downs. In this space, the main limitation is the acoustics. “Because this space was formerly a lecture hall, it was designed to carry sound, and we are very intent upon maintaining the ability to teach two classes at the same time because that’s is the primary goal of librarians – to teach classes, and so we were very specific in our design layout in making sure we could maintain two teaching spaces.” said Ms. Rowley. The sound does carry across the room, so right now the two librarians do expect that it may be difficult for two classes to be in the library at the same time. However, so far the classes that have come in have not had trouble with keeping their voices down and have kept in mind that their noise does carry in the library.

This space does offer something that the previous space didn’t. In this space, the librarians and students can see all of the books facing them. In the old space, the shelves were perpendicular to the wall, which hid many of the books. The librarians designed it like this so students would specifically be surrounded by the books. Students who have come to the new library have had a positive reaction to the layout and are surprised to see the amount of books that the library offers. Students are also showing more interest in a lot of books as they’ll be sitting at a table and see a book they like and check it out as the books are now a lot more visible and close to them.

The people in charge of construction and design presented the librarians with blueprints and Ms. Rowley and Ms. Newland gave their feedback based on what they envisioned for the internal setup of the temporary space. “We were able to change where the shelving was. Initially, the shelving was supposed to be in tall stacks straight across the middle, so we rearranged the position of the shelving a little bit.” said Ms. Rowley. They made sure that all of the components that students liked in the old library were included in this space such as the large floor space and the sitting areas – “We wanted to maintain all of the things that students valued the most, and so we tried to keep computer access on the floor, the open study aspect, and a casual reading area.” said Ms. Rowley.

Ms. Rowley and Ms. Newland have made an effort to keep students coming to the library. They’ve promoted the library in order to draw attention and get students to come by and see the new space.  Students who have always come to the library are still coming to the library regardless, as many students consider the library as their “haven” – “they seek us out no matter where we are” said Ms. Rowley. Now that the library has moved its location, a lot of students that pass through the hall will sometimes come in. What also helped in keeping students coming was the quick transition from the old space to this new space. The transition took only a couple of days and was done over spring break, so that when students came back it would be ready for them. In terms of what the library used to offer, this temporary space offers the same things – students can still come in during cougar time and lunch and teachers can still come in to teach lessons. The main difference is accomodating the amount of students that can come in as this space accommodates less people.

The library has everything and even more than it used to, so if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you take out time to go and visit; while you’re there make sure to also thank the librarians for all of their hard work in designing the library and making sure it was up and ready to go for students to use after coming back from spring break.

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