Visitors to Eckles Library have more than doubled since 2004 and students interviewed said they are increasingly drawn to the Mount Vernon library because of the smaller crowds and community feel.
Eckles librarians count students each hour and statistics collected by the employees show Eckles went from 32,051 visitors during the 2004-2005 school year to 63,968 in the 2008-2009 year. In just the fall 2009 semester alone, 43,579 people visited the library.
Eckles Library staffers have made a concerted effort to increase the library’s visibility and offer it as an alternative to Foggy Bottom’s Gelman Library, said Robin Delaloye, outreach coordinator for Eckles.
“Our usage has increased so much in the past five years that even we can’t believe it,” she said.
As outreach coordinator since August 2005, Delaloye is responsible for representing Eckles on campus, designing and promoting events, and spreading overall interest about the library to GW students.
Some projects include art displays on the first floor, midnight popcorn-making during finals week, and the Eckles Flix Collection, which is a DVD rental system available to Mount Vernon residents.
But Eckles’ biggest strength may be that it listens to student requests. When students asked for additional study space last year, the Eckles staff rearranged the library’s layout and added more tables and chairs. They also expanded their services by not only lengthening their hours of operation, but also bringing tutoring, the Writing Center and GW Language Café to the library.
“I definitely get the feeling they put effort into what they do,” freshman Aaron Schmitt said. “There’s more of a community feel on the Vern.”
Kelsey Martinez, a freshman who lives on the Mount Vernon campus, said it is Eckles’ little perks that make the library special.
“The stuff they do here, it’s definitely a plus,” Martinez said. “It’s warm, cozy and there’s free coffee. I actually use the coffee machine a lot.”
Delaloye said the library is bracing for an even larger increase in library usage with the opening of Pelham Hall, a new residence hall on the Mount Vernon campus.
“No one really knows what it will be like once the new building opens, but we are preparing as best we can by increasing study space and installing new outlets,” Delaloya said. The staff hopes to keep the library open 24 hours a day Sunday through Thursday starting next year.
Eckles employees are especially proud of their top marks in the Service Excellence Survey, which was distributed to over 4,000 students. The library ranked in the top five for student services.
“I think we received this recognition because every person on our staff – professional and student – truly wants to give our patrons the best possible experience,” Delaloye said. “It sounds cheesy, but we just try hard.”
Many of the improvements at Eckles are centered on creating a comfortable atmosphere in which students can relax and study. While Delaloye praises Gelman Library for its vast resources on main campus, she also said, “Eckles is able to offer a more relaxed study environment with comfortable chairs and a higher proportion of study rooms.”
Danielle Vaghi, a freshman who lives on the Foggy Bottom campus, echoed her assessment of the two libraries.
“In Gelman, even the quiet rooms are distracting because there are people around all the time,” she said. “I plan on coming back [to Eckles] to study.”
Eckles’ relaxed environment and improved services have encouraged many students like Vaghi to shuttle from main campus or elsewhere to the Mount Vernon campus.
Dave Iden, a second-year graduate student who lives off campus, said he usually studies at Eckles an hour or two before class.