Staff Editorial: Gelman should be functional, not flashy

How many flat-screen televisions does one school need?

Apparently, between J Street and the lobby of Duques Hall, we don’t have enough of these around campus yet, because the plans for the Gelman Library first-floor renovations include an Information Hub decked out with a number of these flat panels.

Any GW student who has ever cracked a book open will likely argue that Gelman needs some serious improvements. Before shipping in the flatscreens, however, administrators should stop and consider what the true mission of a library really is.

When most students walk into the library, they are either going to be there for five minutes or five hours. In the first case, the sole purpose of braving the clouds of smoke that perpetually hover outside the building is to either print something out or to check out some required reading. Most other students head over to the library ready to camp out for hours, looking for either a quiet place to study or a group meeting location.

The plans for the library, which still require a considerable amount of fundraising, do address some of the pressing student needs, such as opening up the first floor, improving the overall appearance and adding natural light. Still, GW needs to be wary of falling into the common trap of putting flashiness before function.

We do not need “micro-commons,” whatever those are. The most effective changes would be to simply help students meet their basic studying needs. More comfortable, quiet study space would be actually be utilized by students cramming for exams, while the multimedia viewing room will mostly help students procrastinate with YouTube videos. The library needs to be a study refuge and we need to avoid promoting the “Club Gelman” mentality.

That said, a modified version of these renovations do need to happen. There is absolutely no reason for our library to be one of the most neglected aspects of GW. University Librarian Jack Siggins has commendably taken it upon himself to spearhead this project, but why aren’t these improvements a priority? If University President Steven Knapp is so committed to improving academics, undergraduates should be given the functional library that we deserve before $10 million is devoted to planning a science center that may ultimately prove unfeasible.

The bottom line is that Gelman Library cannot remain as archaic as it now is. But according to Siggins, “The University does not see this as a high enough priority to warrant even presenting this to the Board of Trustees.”

Well, it is a priority to the students pulling all-nighters.

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