At some point in many students’ careers, he or she looks up from a pile of overzealously highlighted textbooks, crumpled stacks of loose leaf, and haphazardly strewn empty Starbucks cups and realizes he or she has been holed up in Gelman Library for the better part of a week.
But even with the library being an integral part of the college experience, the building doesn’t receive a great deal of funding. The University provides funding to roughly cover administrative expenses and operate the building, but any additional cash – particularly for renovations – must come in through fundraising – an area in which Gelman has not recently excelled.
In response to the lack of fundraising, a Facebook movement called “Get Gelman Going” has collected 1,128 fans who want to see study space in the library expanded and improved. Created by junior Ryan Last, the fan page connects students, uniting them in a common goal of improving Gelman Library. It features such discussion topics as “What’s Wrong?” and “Why Gelman?” and encourages members to air their grievances in an effort to incite changes.
“I created this movement together with thousands of other GW students, both undergrad and graduate,” Last said. “I get e-mails every day saying Gelman needs better lighting; Gelman needs everything fixed; the ceilings are cracked; there is major crime; the bathrooms don’t work; the furniture is broken or ripped; there are not enough seats, outlets; there is mold,” Last said.
Sophomore Regine Baus recently joined the discussion, specifically expressing her concern about the crumbling ceiling tiles.
“The building as a whole just gives me the feel of a 1960s hospital,” she said. “We’ve got so many beautiful buildings on campus that look like they fit in D.C. and look like they belong in the 21st century and then there’s this dark hulking giant that, in my opinion, is an eyesore. With all the money that we pay to GW on a yearly basis, you’d think our library would be renovated a bit.”
Baus hopes the fan page will rally students and administrators to make the improvements to the building.
“Get Gelman Going” is not the only organization that would like to see Gelman updated. This year’s senior class gift will be donated to the library to fund renovations.
“Seniors have been expressing to me that they wanted to choose Gelman as the recipient of our gift because it’s so integral to every student’s GW experience,” said Kelley Stokes, Senior Class Gift Committee chair.
The Senior Class Gift Campaign has already raised $13,000 to renovate the first floor.
“It’s nearly impossible to attend GW and not spend time studying, going to class or researching in Gelman, and our class thought it was important that we do our part to make sure that in future years GW students can have the best possible Gelman to spend that time in,” Stokes said.
Well aware of many of the problems students have with the facility, the Gelman Library staff is taking proactive measures to work with the student body.
“Our Gelman Library student liaison holds monthly meetings open to all students, at which we encourage students to contribute to the dialogue about how Gelman Library can best serve students and the rest of the GW community,” University librarian Jack Siggins said.
Student feedback has already inspired such changes as rewiring the first floor, adding almost 500 electrical outlets on the fourth and fifth floors, and creating a reservation system for group study rooms. The staff is also in the midst of inventorying furniture to assess damage and order necessary replacements.
“I do not want to put down the Gelman staff, because they try hard year after year to get the board and the president to give them money, but they have to try and raise it on their own in their own development office,” Last said.
He is planning to continue his work with the fan page and also hold an event in Kogan Plaza and pass around a petition supporting the allocation of more funds to Gelman.
“The senior gift is nice, but it will not cover the entire first floor expense, nor the entire building… It is time that Gelman gets its funding,” he said. “It’s time Gelman is caught up to the 21st century!”
The article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (March 8, 2010)
The article originally stated that the Senior Class Gift Committee had raised $1,300 so far. They have raised $13,000.