Library changes focus on student needs, suggestions

Lachlan Johnson

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Penrose Library has made several changes to help serve students this fall. Six new study rooms will help meet the needs of students seeking a quiet place to study alone or in groups, and Whitman College Technology Services (WCTS) will begin providing services from the desk space in the atrium of the library.

Library Director Dalia Corkrum has overseen many of the changes to the library.

“Students want more comfortable places to study,” said Corkrum. “They want to have more flexible spaces and to be able to move furniture around so it meets their study group needs.”

Six more study rooms will be available this fall. Three of the new study rooms were previously reserved for visiting faculty and faculty on sabbatical. These rooms––which have not been utilized in several years––are being converted for student use until the faculty has need of them again. New group study rooms, which were previously seldom-used conference rooms or storage spaces, are also being added, along with 24 new ergonomic study chairs.

“Study rooms are nice because they kind of isolate you, and the library can be kind of noisy. It also isolates others from your noise, especially if you’re with a group,” said junior Tom Potter.

The demand for study rooms is very high and the library often struggles to meet the needs of students.

“If there’s ever any kind of reconstruction or reconfiguration of the building my sense is that one of the things we’d really have to look at carefully is how we could put even more study rooms in,” said Corkrum.

Another improvement Corkrum was involved in was the installation of Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the library’s bathrooms. When students insert their hands into the gap in the Airblade, warm air is blown out at high speeds and dries both sides of their hands in a matter of seconds, ensuring water from the sinks does not damage library materials. The Sustainability Revolving Fund Loan partnered with the library to install the Airblades to cut down on use of paper towels.

“We’re very conscientious of trying to keep as green an environment here as possible,” said Corkrum. “Rather than paper towels that have to be manufactured from trees and then trucked over, and then custodial staff has to put them into the restrooms, and then the custodial staff has to take the trash out of the restrooms, and then the trash has to be dealt with, why don’t we put some of these hand driers in the library? Because it’s a building that uses so [many paper towels], it really felt like this would be an appropriate use [of the Sustainability Fund].”

Students seeking technological assistance will also be better served by the library this year. The Whitman College Technology Services (WCTS) technology support is now located at the desk directly off the atrium which previously provided reference assistance. Reference services are available from research librarians whose offices are next to the circulation desk.

The WCTS, which was previously located in a small office on the ground floor, is finding that the change helps it provide services more efficiently while also enjoying an increase in traffic due to its more central location.

“We’re in a more visible location,” said sophomore Greg Dwulet, WCTS student consultant manager. “It takes less time for things to get reported to us so it takes less time for us to go out and fix them.”

Penrose Library aims to continue to serve students’ academic needs and is open to feedback from students regarding improvements that could be made to its services.

“A lot of what we do is very much based off student feedback,” said Corkrum. “Anything we can do to help the building help students.”