Saturday, March 04, 2006

Capital Times article on UW-Madison libraries

Let's think about this weekend's Capital Times article on UW-Madison libraries as an historical document. For example, think of all the claims and assumptions in this short excerpt:

The cafe is one of several changes UW-Madison library officials have taken in recent years to keep the libraries relevant, enticing and cost-effective.

Many stodgy, book-heavy university libraries have used business models to retool their product for a new, technologically savvy generation. Although libraries do not have to make a profit, they do need to justify their existence to state policymakers, campus administration and, increasingly, private donors. And that means bringing people in the doors.

Libraries, once bastions of silence, are quickly becoming the academic equivalent of the student union.

Those of you who have worked and/or studied in our Memorial and College libraries might want to give the full article a read and comment below as both historical voices and historical analysts ...


Gillian D. said...

I like how they say "book-heavy" as if it is a bad thing and horribly outdated.

I'll try to think of a deeper response when I've had some sleep.

Katie Hanson said...

Although they do mention areas where students can study quietly, I think that someone unfamiliar with the libraries will get the idea from this article that the majority of space in College and Memorial is now turned over to collaborative (read 'noisy') areas, devoid of many books. Yet every time I've gone to retrieve a book from College, the areas designated for quiet or silent study are just as full as the noisy areas. While the article's discussion of the creation of collaborative spaces is mostly true, the emphasis on this one aspect of the libraries overshadows the more traditional (if you will) quiet spaces so much that it makes it sound like the buildings are now just one big commons, sans books. It neglects the importance that students still place on having a quiet space where they can reflect and yes, sleep. Maybe in a world where it's becoming increasingly difficult to get away from the constant bombardment of outside stimuli, this will become increasingly important to students...

Gillian D. said...

I think that one of the continual battles that the campus libraries are undergoing is that students want both a quiet study area and a place where they can talk and eat.
The article doesn't really touch on that fact so much.

I'm currently writing this from Memorial reference area which is a quiet study area, though it is visibly designated as such. However, on the edge of the reference area is the hallway that everyone comes to talk on their cellphones. This is allowed as long as they speak at a low volume. It is part of the battle though, because the area is designed in a matter that carries noise very well. Trying to keep both groups of students, some of whom are in each group, happy is a problem that we are working on.

It makes one feel more like a hall moniter than a librarian at times.