University Libraries seek student input for food policy

Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/

As of Sept. 1, the fourth floor of Hunt library began a “no food policy,” allowing only cold beverages to be consumed on the floor’s physical spaces. This is part of Carnegie Mellon University Libraries’ method of enforcing new procedures in order to improve the student and staff experience in library spaces.

The University Libraries website states that part of the reason for this immediate change to the fourth floor’s policy was because this floor houses the Fine and Rare books, which includes documents, artifacts, and artwork. Food tends to attract more pests and insects on this floor, thereby threatening the physical spaces and community setting. The current food policy also states that food and beverages may be consumed on all other floors of Hunt Library.

More importantly, University Libraries is currently seeking more input regarding other potential changes to their food policy through a community survey. Keith Webster, Dean of University Libraries and Director of Emerging and Integrative Media Initiatives, explains that there have been mixed responses towards Hunt’s fourth-floor food enforcement policy, although many students and staff members recognize the issue of having food in the library and would want some form of change.

In the past year, both Hunt and Sorrells Libraries totaled over one million visitors. Dean Webster, along with library staff, recognize the library is a common destination for many types of people, and they prioritize making any major library changes based on the opinions and discussions enlightened through community input. To achieve this, Carnegie Mellon University students are encouraged to fill out the “Food in the libraries” survey before Oct. 31.

Dean Webster explains that “The goal of the survey is to collect a high-level view of the needs of the community and how to best meet their preferences. We recognize it’s impossible to please everyone, but at least we can give anyone who wants to comment an opportunity to be heard.” Many of the questions in the short survey ask about an individual’s number of visits to the library, the locations and frequency of food consumption in Hunt and Sorrells libraries, how food restrictions might impact an individual’s library visits and experience, and lastly, open responses about Hunt’s current no food policy on the fourth floor.

Dean Webster mentions that since the library is part of a daily routine to a plethora of people who expect it to maintain its high standards, “facilities and policies must continue to evolve to meet the increased demand,” a demand that’s over ten times larger than what the library offered ten years ago. In order to meet such demand, feedback from the survey will probably be used to specifically modify or reinforce certain food policies in the library. Dean Webster and library staff emphasize that any major further changes to the libraries’ policies would take into account such community feedback. Overall, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries staff has been considerate in creating forums and operating based on public input to enhance individuals’ experience in library spaces.