Out with the old, in with the new

“This new facility will serve as an intellectual, cultural and social center for the College and provide state-of-the-art library services to the College community well into the 21st century.”

So states the Library Building Program in a vision statement released in 2002. After years of planning and the New Library’s first semester of usage, it seems that the Program’s goals have been met.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment,” Taras Pavlovsky, dean of the library, said. “We did what we set out to do. It’s the fact that students are coming here that’s important.”

And it’s not that some students are going to the New Library – lots of students are going to the New Library. According to Pavlovsky, the month of September saw a 168 percent increase in library users compared to last year. This was something that Pavlovsky expected.

“Anecdotally, you will find that most institutions with new libraries tend to see a two to three times increase in usage,” Pavlovsky said.

However, Pavlovsky thought the numbers would be down for October. Instead, the increase in usage remained steady at 170 percent, Pavlovsky said, meaning that almost three times as many people used the New Library this October than used the Roscoe L. West Library in October of last year.

“Just looking around on evening and weekends, it’s packed,” Pavlovsky said of the library, which has been featured in articles both in The Times of Trenton and The Star-Ledger. “If you build it, they will come. If you build it right, that is. The usage speaks for itself.”

Among the many reasons suggested for the library’s popularity include its open lay out, variety of seating options and central location.

“This is a great location,” Pavlovsky said. “It’s right in the middle of campus.”

This location is one of the factors that now draws Jason Morgan, senior biology major, to the New Library two or three times a week.

“It’s closer and there are more places to sit,” Morgan said. “And I have more research papers to do (now).”

According to Morgan, he probably went to the old library a total of five times during his first three years at the College.

“The old library was kind of a bunch of additions that weren’t planned out at all,” Morgan said. “The New Library is one piece and singular in its purpose. People go there just to study now rather than just to do research.”

According to Pavlovsky, providing students with a variety of different areas that were conducive to studying was one of the main objectives of the project.

“Different folks like different things, which was the rationale for all the different seating areas,” he explained. “(We) give people different places to study or sleep for a little while.”

Pavlovsky said planners didn’t ignore the fact that sometimes students take small naps in the library and that’s why they provided all the “cushy” seating. Walking around at any point during the day, it isn’t rare to see a student quietly taking off his/her shoes for a quick power nap.

Pavlovsky said one of the most popular areas in the New Library is the North Reading Room, which is located in the third floor atrium underneath the clerestory window. Morgan said that was his favorite spot, as long as it is sunny, and when asked for their favorite spots, a number of other students agreed.

“It’s nice and there’s not as many distractions as there are in the (residence halls),” Nina Hendricks, freshman open options science major, who also favors the third floor spot, said. “There are really nice views, too.”

Hendricks said she is in the New Library just about every other day and, although she was never in the old library, doesn’t think she would have liked going to West.

Jared Fattoross, freshman psychology major, said he goes to the library almost every weekday and even has a favorite spot – a round table on the second floor that faces Eickhoff Hall.

“It’s always quiet and you can always find a spot to do your work,” he said, taking a break from working on the laptop he brings with him some of the time. “Most people are working, not socializing.”

Though some students do enjoy sitting in open areas and studying with friends, others prefer to sit in the boxed individual sections.

Casey Ransom, sophomore engineering major, prefers these individual stations and finds himself in a corner of the third floor two or three times a week. He said he went to the old library just as much as he goes to the new one, but likes the New Library better.

“It’s more spacious,” he said. “It seems a little more crowded, so people like it, I guess.”

According to Ransom, the fact that there’s so much more room means it doesn’t bother him that there are so many people at the library these days.

“It’s very impressive,” he said. “I can see this being something that attracts more (students to this school).”

“I love it,” James Van Strander, junior philosophy and English major, said, before explaining that comparing the new library to the old one is “like comparing a palace to a hole. It makes us look like a real college.”

Although some students may complain that the library isn’t open 24 hours a day, Pavlovsky said that he doesn’t have the personnel to do that right now, but usage will be monitored and operating hours will be increased if they have to. For now, the library’s late-night section, which includes the front portion of the first floor as well as the labs in the basement, is scheduled to be open 24 hours during reading and exam periods.

While there have been some setbacks in opening up the library’s caf?, Pavlovsky expects that “with some luck,” it will be open “on or about the first day of classes” of the spring semester. Wireless service, which students are also wondering about, is scheduled to be up before the end of the semester.

Asked if he thinks the library has lived up to his expectations as the “intellectual, cultural and social center” of campus, Pavlovsky said everything speaks for itself.

“I think it’s the intellectual center by definition,” Pavlovsky said. “As for (being the cultural center), look at the Library Auditorium usage – authors, poetry readings, an Opera Gala, the Walt Whitman Symposium. To have a facility that draws that kind of stuff is great.”

It’s hard to walk by the library and not see someone coming in or going out of it, and according to Pavlovsky, that’s what’s important.

“Not that it needed any validation in my mind,” Pavlovsky said. “But the fact that this facility is getting as much usage as it is answers the question ‘Do we still need libraries?'”