Students opposing the renovation plans to Weber State University’s Stewart Library have taken their fight all the way to the president’s office.
WSU students Avery Pince, history/anthropology major and president of Phi Alpha Theta; Andrew Hyder, history/sociology major and head of of Alpha Kappa Delta; Josh Nelson, history/English major and editor-in-chief of Metaphor; Ben Robbins, history/public administration major; and Shawna Norton, health sciences major, met with WSU President Charles Wight last week to discuss stopping the current plans to renovate the library, providing him with a petition with more than 300 signatures.
Last November, Wight saw a proposal by Mark Halverson, WSU director of campus planning and construction, for a library renovation, which included compact shelving, more group study space, food options and a testing center.
Halverson also presented the renovation plans and ideas to the student senate last semester, when Joan Hubbard, computer and information literacy professor, was present.
Wight said Halverson asked for feedback and didn’t get much of a response, so Wight was caught off guard after winter break to see opposition from students suddenly appear after nobody had said anything before.
Pince said she and her fellow students were aware of the survey that went out in August, but don’t feel it addressed enough of the students’ concerns, and with something as big as an academic library shift, administration should have sought more feedback.
“Student senate has been considered the voice in the process, but they haven’t done a very good job of informing the student body or gathering student body information,” Pince said. “The resounding answer we’ve gotten from people we’ve spoken with said there hasn’t been any information provided to them at all.”
Jan Winniford, WSU vice president for student affairs, said the student senate is working to inform students now, but that “it is hard to get the word out, because students are busy.”
Student senate president Brady Harris said the senate is currently in the process of getting feedback from the student body and is open to suggestions. He urges all students to voice their opinions to their senators, or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He said he also wants student to be aware they can join in voicing their opinions at the open senate meeting held every Monday in Room 404 of the Shepherd Union Building.
Harris said the survey that went out in August was the first time WSU has ever sent out a survey to every single student to get feedback on a renovation plan.
According to Harris, “1,200-plus students did reply to it, and they have seen more feedback for the plans on renovating this building than any other on campus. I think they have tried to get student opinion and have done their due diligence as much as they could to get out there to students.”
The survey went out to students on Aug. 2, 2013, staying open for feedback until Oct. 2, and had a total of 1,224 respondents. Question 4 had the most dramatic increase in response in the survey. The question asked how important the potential enhancement of a “designated quiet study space (an area containing tables/chairs and single-person study carrels).” The response from 64.62 percent, or 791 respondents, was “very important.”
Whether or not students want a testing center in the library is not one of the questions on the survey.
The WSU Student Association has a comment board asking “What’s important to you in a new library?” in the Shepherd Union Atrium, to allow passing students to write down their concerns or opinions about the library renovations.
Some board comments as of Friday were “Expand the special collections,” “Coffee shop — yes, please!”, “Keep quiet study space,” “Private study rooms,” “Fun games — like Silent Library,” “Bigger fiction section,” “Anima and relaxing area after hard day at college” and “Books, books, books.”
The No. 1 concern for the five students who went to Wight was the incorporation of a testing center in the library.
“Putting a testing center in the library brings in noise, foot traffic,” Pince said. “It would decrease prime real estate for study space, which students have resoundingly said that they want.”
She also mentioned that it takes away from spaces that could be used for offices or the expansion of undergraduate research.
Wight informed the students that one of the motivating factors of this renovation is the need for a new testing center, as the testing center in the science building will soon be torn down.
If WSU chooses to build a testing center somewhere other than the library, Wight said it is highly unlikely that any money will go into improving the library.
Wight said his only previous experience with reimagining a library was with the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. Although this should not be used as a model for every institution, he said, the things incorporated into the Marriott, such as more comfortable furniture in a commons area and a testing center, integrated the library dramatically.
“The average number of students supplemented more than doubled, and so the place went from a quiet place where almost nobody went to a kind of noisy place, at least in some sections, where students were studying all the time and collaborating,” Wight said. “It made it a different place, but it made it utilized by students a great deal more.”