Lifton names Gelman renovations a top goal

Student Association President-elect Jason Lifton declared improving Gelman Library his first priority and pledged to work with students, the Washington Research Library Consortium and University administrators to improve the aging and often overcrowded building.

Lifton said he plans to work with Ryan Last, founder of the Facebook fan page “Get Gelman Going,” which has gathered 1,163 fans, and the WRLC to explore the possibility of relocating more books to an off-campus site to make room for more study space.

WRLC members, which include George Mason, Georgetown and American, share computer and electronic database resources and a large storage facility located in Upper Marlboro, Md. The storage facility houses books and journals in off-site locations to create space on campuses.

“As we get more books and journals in electronic format, we have less need for the hard copies. The demand by students for study seating in Gelman competes with the need to have stacks, so we constantly have to decide what books we can move to storage in order to make more room for seating,” University librarian Jack Siggins said in an e-mail.

GW removes about 20,000 books every year to the WRLC facility to create space in Gelman, Siggins said.

“We currently have one storage module, now nearly full with over 1.3 million volumes,” WRLC Interim Executive Director Mark Jacobs said. “Moving these books and journals off campus frees a significant amount of space in the libraries of the eight-member universities for other, higher priority uses.”

Despite these steps toward increasing space, the issue of funding for renovations to the library looms large.

“What most students do not realize is that the Gelman Library receives limited funds from the University that only cover administrative costs, including salaries, operating costs and collections,” Siggins said. “The money needed to remodel and upgrade the library must be done through pure donations raised primarily by Gelman’s own development office.”

Planned renovations that would have included personal workstations, new software and reconfigurable furniture for Gelman Library’s first floor were placed on hold this fall because the library had only raised $150,000 of the $5 million needed for the project, The Hatchet reported in September.

Lifton said he plans to convey the importance of Gelman improvements to the administration, which will include Steven Lerman, the University’s next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“We have been working with the University librarian and the student advisory board to establish a constant stream of funding that would allow the library to build up the improvements that it really needs,” Lifton said.

Lifton, working with Last and the student body, hopes to fix some of the most common complaints about Gelman.

“As an academic institution, the library needs to be a top priority,” he said. “A library is the center of academic life on campus, and with the amount of money we’re paying for our education, we need to have a top-notch library to back all classroom activities.”

The WRLC storage facility presents an opportunity to create more space within the library, but Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said the University is trying to find shorter term solutions as well.

“There are long term plans, but these are long-term plans of how the library can be expanded. But in the short term we agree that we need to do more to make it more usable. We continue to use more and more of the storage space, and what we are doing is, we are continuing to look at how we can better utilize [Gelman],” Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said.

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