Campus / News / March 4, 2009

Seymour Library at capacity

Though college libraries need to have many books on a multitude of subjects, Seymour Library’s annual receipt of between three and five thousand volumes a year has caused it to reach its capacity. With the help of the Instructional Support Committee, the library’s staff is currently working to cut down on the number of books available to students.

Jeff Douglas, director of the library, said, “At the micro-level, there are individual shelves where another book cannot be added. At the macro-level, the capacity of the building has been exceeded.” Just before Seymour Library was renovated in the winter term of 1988, the library was even more crowded than it is today. In fact, the goal of renovation, as Douglas said, was to create more shelf space. Prior to the renovation, “There were no books in the basement. This allowed the library to gain space, but a student committee and various architects discussed the purpose behind options to enhance the library’s capacity.”

While the library is filled with ample workspace for students, a student committee, architects, and the library staff agreed that it would be detrimental to compromise too much seating space for the addition of monographs.

Though the 1988 renovations were an improvement, space concerns have currently reached a peak. In order to continue to exist as a workspace and resource center for students, Seymour Library has been obligated to transfer some books to the SMC Library and discard many index volumes that are to be replaced by online periodicals.

This solution is less than ideal, said associate librarian Sharon Clayton.

“Not everything is replaceable by on-line reference sources,” she said. “Even if journals are able to be replaced by online periodicals, books are a long way from being replaced.”

The library staff copes with the mass of books by adding new shelving each year. Storage areas in the warehouse have been put to use, in addition to the implementation of the “no second copy” policy on books, which prevents over-crowding of shelves. Nevertheless, shifting and rearranging space for books will not be enough to fight the larger issue in the future. Although Clayton said that “there will never be a way of finding out what students will want to use in the future” when books must be removed from the library due to lack of space, the alternative solution of furthering library renovations would “only be a short-term, unrealistic solution.”

Clayton and Douglas agree that times are changing, and the library is no longer an environment that exists for the sole purpose of obtaining research information. “In the future,” Douglas said, “libraries will be more of a social space, and they will act as more of a place where students produce knowledge than a place where they consume it.”

Since purchasing an off-site storage facility to store library books will not be considered for at least two to three years, sacrificing library space at the present time for shelf space would be counterproductive to the point of the library. After all, a college library has as much of an obligation to house its students as it does its timeless literary volumes.

Even though professors chose the majority of books present in the library, Seymour Library is an important resource used extensively by Knox students. Douglas believes that there are many ways that students can deal with library capacity problems. Aside from gaining awareness on the issue, said junior Ginny Graves, “Students can keep up with what the Instructional Committee is doing to improve the library.”

“Especially if the library is cutting down on the number of books available to students, the staff should ask students which books are most useful to them, so that the library does not eliminate those volumes,” she said.

Elise Hyser


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