With the recent unveiling of Lam Square, the University has given students a glimpse into the future of Rush Rhees, an uber-modernized attempt to unify the library’s circulation and lobby area’s aesthetic, to swap its antique charm with sleek, Apple-Store minimalism.
That is unfortunate.
Lam Square is modern, all right, and for all our hand-wringing about the upgrade, it seems to be just as popular a study space as ever—perhaps even more so than before.
Let’s give credit where credit’s due. There are some valuable and enjoyable features in the renovation, including the convenient recessed power outlets in the floor, the cozy booths set into the back wall, and a slimmed-down reference desk fit for the information age.
The tall tables on the north side of the room seem to be especially popular, although one can’t help but wonder if that space would have been better occupied by the famous antique tables that were so popular among students. Perhaps they clashed with the modern vibe.
But the space has lost so much functionality.
Prior to the renovations, the circulation area boasted rows of desktop computers and printing services.
Those are gone.
Yes, there’s the “tech sandbar”—where is the sand, by the way?—that appears to be modeled in the Steve Jobs school of design, but it doesn’t offer the same range of options.
What, exactly, is the point of all those tablets, apart from serving as autograph books and doodle pads? Are they just advertisements?
The old circulation area was a convenient—and centrally-located—stop for students rushing to print off an assignment before class. As the semester gets moving, this shortcoming of Lam Square may become more apparent.
And we feel this could have been avoided. Sure, the forums hosted on the renovations were a commendable effort, but they’re a basic one—such commonsense steps don’t merit showers of praise. There are two issues here.
First, if student attendance at recent town hall meetings is indicative of a general trend, the University is not getting feedback from a wide cross-section of the student body.
Second, and more importantly, is that the University administration is very good at soliciting feedback from the very involved student, but not from their common cousin. That includes members of SA government, club leaders, and the like.
Where the town halls, open forums, and focus groups fail is in their attempt to reach a broader swath of the student body—students who are less well acquainted with the administration, and who may be more likely to offer novel criticisms and suggestions.
To be sure, this falls on students, too. These forums are only as helpful and creative as the students who attend them, and the events didn’t go totally unpublicized. Students had reasonable opportunities to offer feedback.
The library administration has made it clear that they intend to move ahead with renovations of other parts of the library as more funding becomes available. Hopefully they learn from the renovation of Lam Square and work with more—and more average—students to ensure that future renovations do not sacrifice useful features in the name of an appealing design.