Library feng-shui

by Quinn Welsch

Horizon Reporter

The Whatcom Community College library may be making some changes to its layout this summer as librarians plan on reorganizing space to accommodate students and their jobs.

Besides additional computers, librarian Kiki Tomilla said the library hasn’t changed significantly in at least seven years.

On any given afternoon in the library, the sound of murmuring students, the drone of air-ducts, and fingers ticking away on keyboards creates a gentle white noise. Despite the relative peace, students concerned with the noise level have said they would like to see some changes.

Reorganization of the library will also help the library’s staff. Student needs come first, said Tomilla, who is the chair of the library space planning committee.

Tomilla said the library’s reorganization comes at no cost and consists of a simple plan: rearrange furniture, and replace dated technology – such as DVD for VHS, and slowly transfer conventional books to ebooks. The library’s rearrangement will also maximize working space for the librarians.

“We’ve got shelving, we just need a space to put the shelving,” said Tomilla. “Library practice says you need to leave X amount of room per shelf for growth. We are now not following that rule.”

There are two questions written on a discussion board set up in front of the circulation desk. Why do you come here? is the first. The answers range from “To study in a quiet environment,”  “HW,” and “to look at girls.”

The second question: What do we need? “Quiet!!” is one answer, adding in parenthesis “I shouldn’t have to book a conference room to get quiet, but I do. So sad,” another is “More tables to study at,” and “More study areas.” The answers go on and are stacked up in multiple pages in Tomilla’s office.

The main complaint Tomilla hears from students is that it’s becoming harder to find a quiet place for studying.

The library’s high ceiling and thick walls make for strong acoustics and allow voices to sound louder and clearer than usual.  John McConnel, a bearded librarian at the reference desk, said that noise from upstairs travels to the library’s main floor and can become a nuisance.

At certain times the noise is ambient, said McConnel. He takes a moment to listen to the sounds of the library, “There’s a little bit of noise coming from everywhere, so nothing sticks out,” he said. In the evening, when the air ducts stop humming, McConnel said, the library becomes dead quiet, making even the smallest noises distracting.

Tomilla said the plans for this summer are only “Band-aids.” She would like to see low cost fixes in the library after the summer but does not know a price. If the campus planners accept a proposal for such fixes, she said, “We’ll be looking under rocks for money. We just need to be creative.”

Library director Linda Lambert wrote in an email that there are no current plans for a renovation. But there is a possibility that the library may see even bigger changes further down the road. Lambert wrote that plans for a learning commons is still “on the list for possible capital projects for the 2013 – 2015 biennium.” Each biennium is a two year budget cycle. The learning commons would incorporate the learning center services and the campus library in a new building.

Nate Langstraat, vice president of administration services said the 2013 – 2015 cycle would merely be the design phase. If the project is approved, he said it would be constructed in the 2015 – 2017 cycle and cost upwards of $30 million at the state’s expense. Langstraat is optimistic about the learning commons, but said that the project depends on the state’s “revenue forecast.”

Because the project would be state funded, any new plans must be posted via publicly for construction contractors to bid on a request for proposal. Contractors will provide a projected cost, and their plans for completing the project. The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services will then coordinate with campus planners to decide which bid is most beneficial to Whatcom.

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