Dedicate library space to student desires

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 23, 2014

At issue: Underused library space undergoes yet another rebranding project.

Our take: Really?

Just over a year after the Will & Grace set was announced to relocate to Emerson Los Angeles, questions still remain as to what to do with the now-vacant space in the Boston campus’ Iwasaki Library. In this latest stunt, a business class has taken on the effort to rebrand and, ostensibly, better organize the space. In reality, the solution is much simpler: Just take down the glass wall.

Yes, innovation is one of President M. Lee Pelton’s five strategic objectives. But in this case, the best innovation is simplification. It’s time to meet students’ straightforward desires, repeated year after year: More tables, chairs, and outlets. 

“It’s way too small,” the director of the library at Rhode Island School of Design told the Beacon in 2006.

“The library definitely needs more desks, I always have to wait or I just leave,” a student said in 2011.

“It’s no secret there is a problem with library space,” Kevin Bright said in 2013.

But this class project is just the latest flawed attempt at modernizing the library that—as is Emerson’s unfortunate tendency—prioritizes style over substance. Last semester, the library decided to convene what it called the Black Box Design Workshop, and one participant suggested adding a 3D computer interface, a la Tom Cruise’s in the 2002 film Minority Report.

Business students can wallpaper the glass panels until they run out of Post-It notes and committees can brainstorm the most outlandish schemes, but really, all these proposed changes, initiatives, surveys, and meetings just overshadow the easy solution. It is a library, and a small one at that. Instead of a live bear sanctuary or a “habitat” for British actress Tilda Swinton—two actual proposals—let’s add some more bookshelves. Rather than high-tech gizmos, why not add some desks.   

Let’s not overcomplicate this.