Throughout last fall semester, large poster boards in the entrance area of Ladd Library showed plans for a complete renovation of the building. Fabric swatches indicated completely new furniture on several floors, such as sleek new lounge chairs and raised swivel chairs for higher tables. Floor plans showed signs of a future cafe area, for which many students showed support with stickers coding for countless Yes’s and twice-underlined Absolutelys.
While the bombardment of neon stickers has not wielded its expected results, the Library underwent construction this summer for the redesign of the main floor, as well as less drastic but nonetheless noticeable changes in other parts of the building.
The main floor now features brand new carpeting, new PC computers, computer desks instead of long tables, and sleek black swivel chairs. The carpet, which also now covers the basement and upper floors, gives the library a refreshingly bright appearance. The computer desks are clustered in groups of three with cubicle-like walls separating the workspaces, high enough for separating individual spaces and short enough to allow for group conversations.
The elimination of the old computer tables and the new configuration of desks have been the most drastic changes in terms of spatial arrangement. Seating near the computers has been reduced, or at least partially moved to the area near the Peer Writing Center. The reference books’ shelves have also been rearranged, and the shelf of featured books selected by the librarians now stands between Circulation and the flat-screen television –– better for students to see as they walk in. The area by the Peer Writing Center, which used to be taken up mostly by shelves, now feels more open and more populated with workspaces due to the relocation of print periodicals.
These changes are the result of an ongoing discussion about Learning Commons, said Laura Juraska, associate librarian for research.
“It began a number of years ago. We wanted to upgrade the machines, update the rug, try to free up some rooms we have for group study. We upgrade the labs with new machines every four years, so they were due for an upgrade–that would have happened regardless of anything,” she points out. According to Juraska, the changes that happened this summer “came out from multiple ideas that might have been bigger [changes], but then came down to smaller things.”
But the main goal of this summer’s revamping was to increase possibilities for collaborative work among students.
“We reduced some of the reference collection without getting rid of that information by putting some online. That allowed for even more space than we already had,” Juraska explained. The clusters of computers are an obvious product of this idea.
“We actually bought more [swivel] chairs than we actually need so that people can pull up chairs to the desks,” adds the librarian.
An impressive new feature is the raised table with a “collaborative computer screen” on the back wall. Students will be able to connect their own laptops to the larger computer to show their work to study groups on a large screen. This space will be available for booking once the screen has been hooked up.
Because of previous hints of more extensive changes, the current redesign has not completely met students’ expectations, even if perceptions of the baby steps toward change are not negative.
“I really like the way the computers are put in groups of three, and the chairs are really nice,” said Sophie Salas ‘15, “but I hope they add new furniture to the other floors as well. I hope they continue with the rest of the building–adding a coffee shop-type area would be awesome.”
Junior Katie Paulson expected more renovation as well. “I like the new carpeting–it looks better–[but] I got a sense that it would be more different, and it seems like there hasn’t been that much that’s changed. It still feels the same; there’s not a huge shock moment when you walk in,” she noted.
According to librarian Juraska, however, future plans for the library depend on the finalization of plans for new housing on Campus Avenue, as well as the ongoing discussion about the relationship between the Library, Chase Hall, and Commons.
“Some of the [foot] traffic pattern will change once there’s housing across the street,” says Juraska, so architects and Bates administrators are trying to figure out how that will affect the three buildings.
“What it might mean is possibly an entrance to the Library downstairs on the basement level,” Juraska mentions, because foot traffic might mean more people coming from the Library Quad side in the future.
Discussions about the broader plans for the buildings around the Library Quad will, Juraska said, be held throughout this fall. As drastic changes for the library are somewhat dependent on these plans, it looks like we have some more waiting to do.