It is unlikely that students would ever really love their university library. In truth, a campus’ library is usually the place students go to make themselves so mind-numbingly bored that doing homework is their last vestige of sanity. But the complaints that surround Gelman Library do not focus on the anxiety of paper writing or the dread of pulling an all-nighter before a midterm. Rather, students have made it clear that the current state of Gelman as a campus facility and resource is unacceptable.
This semester, the Facebook group “Get Gelman Going,” a group which emphasizes the need for library renovations, has garnered over 1,100 supporters. While we understand that Facebook activism is something to be wary of when gauging student support, we also believe that this is representative of a strong sentiment on campus – this year’s senior class gift will be donated to the library, for example. Combined, these efforts show how much students want to see the library improved.
The central issue for Gelman stems from the fact that it receives no money from the University for capital expenditures. GW stops at funding only the administrative and operational costs of the library, and thus it is up to Gelman’s own development office to fundraise for any improvements to the library. The development office has set their fundraising goal at $5 million, but all indications are that they are still far short of this total. These numbers illustrate two problems for the effort to renovate Gelman. First, it is clear that the development office of Gelman Library is ill-equipped to effectively fund the renovations that students want to see. Second, the planned renovations, with the hefty $5 million price tag, are simply too ostentatious and unrealistic.
The onus for seeing improvement for our library is twofold. It is up to the administration to put some resources toward capital improvements for Gelman. It is clear from the dilapidated state of many of the floors of the library that the current method of funding improvements is not adequate. On the other hand, students must also be willing to contribute to the effort. Currently, the tuition-based $50 dollar opt-out voluntary fee is the best way for students to tackle the issues they are concerned with. There is warranted debate over whether this fee is the most effective way of fundraising, but for now it is one of the only options directly offered to students.
Every student has encountered the main issues that Gelman faces. The first, fourth and fifth floors are in embarrassing condition, and the library as a whole deals with periodic overcrowding. Additionally, the search for a study room typically ends in disappointment, while the elevators and many desks are in desperate need of repair. We see that students are making these issues a priority, and the University should follow suit.