Hunt Library’s new IDeATe renovations hurt functionality
Less than a year ago, Hunt Library received renovations that made its first floor a very welcoming place for students to work, study, and socialize. The renovations were immensely popular and showed a real understanding on the part of the university toward the wants and needs of students. Alongside an initiative by library staff to be responsive to student suggestions that drew praise from this publication, it rendered Hunt Library an attractive place.
If you have not yet been to Hunt, I recommend you do your best to remember that inviting open floor plan, the wide spaces, the dozens of desktop workstations, and the ability to see out both the front and back windows at the same time — because that has all been taken from you. The elimination of popular student spaces also extends to the second floor, where stacks displaced by the IDeATe construction have filled in the open areas where there were once tables, chairs, and groups of students doing work and having conversations.
As compensation, we have been given more silent study space on the third floor. Expect to wander up there while looking for printers, as the three given to us after the last round of renovations are gone, replaced by a single unit.
Of course there are some advantages to the new renovations. The basement now has a collection of fabrication spaces — that are only open to those who complete semester-long intake courses. The basement also now has a room painted entirely black, which should alleviate the constant demand for motion capture or psychological torture spaces on campus. There is a pair of classrooms that you can sit quietly on the periphery of until you determine if the guy writing on the whiteboard and talking loudly is teaching a class or just being obnoxious. Four of the computers have also survived and been tucked into a cramped corner by the two remaining printers. One of them is situated so that only the person sitting at the computer next door can see your screen, perfect for “studying human anatomy”!
The IDeATe program could be a useful addition to campus, though we won’t know for a few years when the first people to graduate with the associated minors enter the job market. But the administration needs to be roundly criticized for the way the renovations were handled. Re-renovating a space that had only opened a matter of months ago is wasteful and inconsiderate of the planning behind a student-centric space. While the facilities in the basement seem like overall useful additions, even with their limited accessibility to the larger student body, there is no clear reason why the first-floor classrooms needed to be constructed, especially when Baker Hall and Porter Hall have numerous classrooms that are showing their age and either lack central air or rely on window air conditioning units that appear to be older than some students. The new Hunt classrooms do not offer anything that other classrooms do not and serve to detract from the utility of the library for many students.
The stealth with which the construction was done is also concerning, since this space popular with students was completely reworked over the summer while students were not around. No official emails went out to announce town halls or other forums for discussion of the changes; they simply happened. Were students consulted about the renovations at all? It seems doubtful.
Two official emails have contained reference to IDeATe. One of them, cosigned by Vice Provost for Design, Arts, and Technology Thanassis Rikakis and Dean of University Libraries Keith Webster says: “The placement of IDeATe’s student facilities in the Hunt Library reflects a growing trend for academic libraries to expand from a focus on housing collections of books and journals to becoming a space where students come together to work with their peers, interact with technology, and access a range of media to create knowledge.” If they had bothered to ask, they would know we were already doing that without the aid of walls and a seemingly unnecessary reshuffling of content.