TO THE EDITOR:
In response to the editorial that appeared in the January issue of The Impact, Lack of Computers and Noise Are Irritating Me!, I would like to inform Impact readers about some of the solutions we’ve come up with in the library to help mitigate the noise and computer availability issues and also talk a little bit about the larger issue of the Learning Commons itself.
A Learning Commons is a multi-faceted environment designed for collaborative learning, quiet study and relaxing and socializing. With amenities such as the Cafe and Art Gallery, it can be challenging to strike a balance between objectives that seem to be at cross purposes. Since opening in 2009, we have initiated several enhancements and are planning for more as part of an on-going effort to create a productive and enjoyable learning environment for all patrons, whether engaged in serious study or those taking a break to relax and socialize with friends.
Most of the high level noise students are hearing emanates from the main Commons/Cafe area. In response, we installed glass partitions in the mezzanine above this area in 2010 thereby creating the two sections of our new Quiet Zone. While whisper level discussion is acceptable in the north section, the south end is designated for truly silent study and remains a unique sanctuary in the library. Within the next year, we hope to add a large array of study carrels and computers to both areas, doubling the capacity for students to work in these areas. And this spring, we are pleased to announce that we will be installing a four-seat counter and one computer and printer in the corridor between Classrooms A and B as well as three more computers to the inner stack counters.
We have also posted signs encouraging students to utilize our Instruction Lab, classrooms spaces and Larry Bone Room, when available, as quiet refuges. By adding additional loaner laptops next year to boost our current pool, even more students will be able to perform research and complete their assignments in these interior rooms. Looking ahead, we are planning to make configuration changes to the furniture lay-out of the Commons/Cafe area to help distribute the noise more evenly.
We also agree with the student who noted the problem of litter in the library and we have duly contacted Facilities to increase custodial sweeps of the facility. However, our hope is that students would abide by the Mercy Code of Conduct which asks that students exercise responsibility for themselves and their environment. While we allow light refreshments and beverages, we ask that students use lids on all drinks and refrain from bringing hot and smelly food into the library. The Library’s Café menu specifically features items that are appropriate for a Commons.
Regarding patrons bringing children, unfortunately our mission is an inclusive one and as long as there is no overt abuse of this privilege, we cannot directly exclude children from our facility. However, children cannot be left unsupervised in the library and we encourage patrons to let us know if they observe this occurring.
Regarding the issue of students on Facebook and YouTube, our own observations and current research indicate that today’s students tend to multi-task at library computers, doing both school work and accessing social media. Many instructors are also integrating social media into their curriculum making it difficult to draw sharp distinctions between work and play. Even the Mercy library has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts and we encourage students to use these outlets to post observations and communicate issues of mutual interest. In our complex digital environment, Internet rules are not only difficult to enforce but may actually work against productive web usage.
We are confident that a combination of significant new seating and computing to our Quiet Zone and more active management of clamor during peak hours by our staff will abate some of the noise and technology issues. Most important of all, this spring we are forming a Student Advisory Team to help provide feedback on all matters related to our facilities, services and resources. We greatly encourage students to join the Advisory Team as critical members of the library to help us stay creative, flexible and informed on your opinions and observations. With your assistance, we can continually evolve as a facility that works for all patrons!
If you are interested in joining the Mercy Library Advisory Team and need more information, please send an email to either Mustafa Sakarya ([email protected]) or the Head of the Dobbs Ferry Library Learning Commons, Tesse Santoro ([email protected]).
Director, Mercy College Libraries