How Deserted Was The Library

It was so deserted “You could shoot off a cannon and not worry about hitting anyone.” That’s how Jay Schafer, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts, described the conditions of the ground floor of the library, prior to a recent building renovation, in an article published in the Boston Globe. This is one “library as place” project that has gotten some attention lately. In addition to the newspaper article, NPR carried an interview with Schafer about the library’s renewal after the renovation project.

Du Bois library, at 28 stories, is one of the tallest academic library buildings. But prior to the renovation, “it was so creepy”, said one student because “there was no one there”. In the NPR interview, Schafer said that the library’s cafe, named The Procrastination Station, serves more coffee than any other location on campus. The facility is now open 24 hours a day, but just 5 days a week (students are probably already asking for 24/7). The lesson of the Du Bois Library renovation is, once again, that the solution for the deserted academic library building is a renovation or construction project that creates an inviting social, cultural and intellectual space that provides the amenities desired by today’s campus community. Build it and they will come.

2 thoughts on “How Deserted Was The Library

  1. My Library went through the same changes no more than two years ago, which is just a tiny little time compared to historic libraries.

    We built a new café called Kaffe Künstler in honor of the café where Ludwig von Mises and his friends gathered to drink a cup of coffee and discuss what a world would we have if laissez faire capitalism came to happen. Their hopes continue living and people like I will continue working on his ideas.

    Then, we remodeled the Library and rearrange the shelves to be more accessible and a total re-cataloging of our collection began. The Dewey system always worked very efficiently but more headings where needed and every day those headings are added to the collection.

    Then, we created a “new books” station in our lobby and all the visitors pass every day taking a look to our books.

    Later, we created a Reference Desk; where I started working, and people started asking things they wouldn’t have noticed we had available in our library.

    Now, my Library is a huge success in Guatemala. We have the most technologically advance systems and online access to our catalog is available everywhere on campus.

    Now, we have a challenge. It is attracting customers or “Disney visitors” as we like naming them.

    We have the books, we have the technology and we have a very neat collection full of new acquisitions. But students and the culture of Guatemala is not used to read.

    What can we do to bring students to the Library? How can we “enchant” readers to visit us and read? How can we show people the magic and wisdom a book has? THAT IS OUR GOAL! AND WE ARE GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THEM!

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