Iwasaki Library sorely lacks in study space

by Beacon Staff • December 5, 2007

The limited capacity of the Iwasaki Library.

Our view:

Our growing college needs a larger facility.,The once-a-semester, caffeine-saturated panic fest is nearly here: finals are descending upon Emerson College.

The fall term will build to a crescendo on Dec. 18 before giving way to a month-long break. But until that tantalizing future is realized, students have much work to do, and many will use the Iwasaki Library in 120 Boylston St. to put a dent in their syllabi.

This past Sunday, the library-named for benefactor Dr. Shoo Iwasaki-extended its hours for the impending finals push, moving closing times up to midnight Sunday through Thursday and to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

The library is also displaying customary finals-time hospitality: coffee and snacks are provided for the bedraggled studentry on a nightly basis.

The gesture will no doubt be well-received by Emersonians, but the complimentary offerings will taste somewhat unsavory. After all, shortbread cookies cannot overcome the vast shortage of seating in the undersized library. This is a year-round problem, but it becomes especially annoying with finals bearing down.

According to a Beacon report last year, the library can seat only 152 people-less than 5 percent of Emerson's undergraduate student population. Last year, a team of three college library directors conducted an extensive evaluation of the Emerson library and recommended the library be relocated and significantly expanded.

Any library sufficient for the Emerson community would need to be three to five times larger than the present one, one director recommended.

The coffee and cookies are nice, but in the end, they're a Band-Aid on a broken leg. The best anti-stress initiative the college can provide for its library-frequenting students is an appropriately-sized space in which Emersonians can properly curl up like bookworms, ready to become the professional artists and communicators for which Emerson's name is proclaimed.

Boston University's main library has 2,000 seats for its 16,000 undergraduates. Emmanuel College's 200-seat library accommodates a full 10 percent of its undergrad population. Emerson deserves no less.

Dr. Iwasaki's recent $1 million endowment to the library should spark ambitious plans to catch Emerson up to fellow academia.

In the face of yearly tuition increases and lavish construction projects, the library has remained in a holding pattern for years. Before the Paramount Center's 200-seat screening room is unveiled, the least students should expect is to have a library where they can study, read and relax-and not just 152 of them at a time.

A college library is not just a place for research and reading; it is an academic haven in the heart of a college-a sometimes not-so-academic environment. Libraries give students a place where they can be decidedly productive, far apart from the distractions of their apartments or dorm rooms.

It may be the college's un-ivied walls that leave us bereft of a formidable library. But this becomes a vicious circle. How is Emerson expected to advance as an institution if it students are without the tools of real scholarship?

In the next two weeks, when students decide to shed the distractions of their home environments to do schoolwork, there will be a bull run for open computers in the library, but furnishing the library with more computer units would put the cart before the horse.

As it stands, it is enough of an ordeal for library-goers to find an outlet for their laptops alongside accompanying seating and table space.

Even for starry-eyed, media-consuming Emersonians, these small things have the most importance: a seat, a small stretch of table, a place to plug in, functional printers and copiers.

No one's asking for anything outrageous, just an expanded space where Emersonians can eke out a respectable academic existence, not just during finals weeks, but all semester-long.