Staff Editorial: Improving Gelman one stage at a time

The University finally seems to have taken notice of the perennial complaints students have voiced concerning Gelman Library, and for that, we are extremely relieved. GW’s administration has expressed interest in working with Gelman to financially support the changes students and library officials have outlined.

Hopefully, this marks a new era where Gelman officials will not have to solely pay for renovations through their own fundraising. Since attaining the University’s interest, Gelman administrators have revisited their planned renovations from 2007, which they were unfortunately never able to fund in full.

This plan included many changes to the first floor only, and we are indeed looking forward to that progress.

Yet in order to better accommodate what it is students so frequently request, the University and library officials should follow a set of stages that addresses the short and long-term needs students have for their school’s library. And the University could outline its goals in these short-term, mid-term and long-term stages.

Just last evening, Gelman administrators, the Student Association and students met on the second floor of the library to discuss the proposed changes to the first floor. Students were able to provide feedback about the ideas for the renovations, and architects were on hand to describe their visions for what the floor will look like if the plan goes through.

And though it is in the initial planning stages – one that involves soliciting feedback from the presentations – it seems as though officials have a pretty solid idea of what students want from at least the first floor of the library. More outlets, consolidated reference desks and study space are the main improvements, and these will foster a more welcoming environment. After all, STAR tour guides should be able to bring groups of prospective students to the first floor. But it would be a shame if officials spent too much time on this phase of the project. It is time to narrow the focus of the plans and come up with something substantial, so the University can approve funding and move forward with the renovations.

Of course, even if the plan enters the next phase tomorrow, the project will not be completed in time for current students to see the results. While we accept that this is the reality of such large-scale renovations, it would be extremely helpful if planners could outline other more temporary fixes that would alleviate students’ problems. For example, the third and fourth floors are especially problematic – what with the harsh lighting and awkward layouts of shelves and stacks. Library officials could advocate for less expensive options, such as a new paint job, rearranging bookshelves and adding comfier furniture for an overall more accommodating study space. And these changes could be geared toward current Colonials, who have a vested interest in their library of today and tomorrow.

While the University has offered to help Gelman renovate the first floor, we hope that over time, administrators look above that floor. If the third, fourth and fifth floors resembled the sixth floor, students would have significantly fewer complaints. The sixth floor utilizes natural light, offers comfortable study spaces for both individual and group studying, and is a favorite among students. Once the first floor renovations are in place, maybe then plans for the upper floors can follow suit.

Fundamentally, our University library needs to change. It needs to better accommodate the students and the technology those students need to use. It is laudable the University has finally answered the calls to improve this vital campus resource, and that changes are on the way. We just hope those changes can be comprehensive and carried out swiftly. After all, though students will greatly benefit from the future Gelman, there are so many students who frequent the current Gelman, and they want to benefit from the University’s newfound attention on the library, too.

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