Patrick Rochelle: Gelman needs a library lobbyist

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Patrick Rochelle

Within the next week, the University plans to announce a new librarian for Gelman Library, after the former leader stepped down last summer.

Gelman is a campus centerpiece. It’s the crossroads of all academic pursuits at GW for thousands of students, faculty and administrators every day.

But despite its location at the heart of campus and the critical role it plays in students’ and professors’ lives, consultants said in March that Gelman is lacking when it comes to resources and staff.

To most of us, this isn’t news. Gelman has a long history of being underfunded. The library’s budget has remained stagnant at $4 million for the past decade.

During midterms and final exams, it’s nearly impossible to find a place to sit and study at Gelman. Last week, the library closed twice because temperatures reached unbearable levels after the cooling system broke. Students have come to jokingly refer to it as “GelHell.” It’s a joke, but truth wears a smile.

And on top of that, the consultants said this semester that Gelman barely counts as a research library, so it isn’t even a functional academic facility.

So that’s why it’s essential that the library’s new leader assumes the role of Gelman’s chief lobbyist, making sure that these issues are resolved.

The University invested $16 million for renovations to the first and second floors of the aging building, which will include a new entrance from Kogan Plaza. But these changes are largely going to be cosmetic.

At a time when GW is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in projects like the $275 million Science and Engineering Hall, a new School of Public Health and Health Services building and the GW Museum, it’s shocking that Gelman has been put on the back burner.

Old, uncomfortable furniture. A lack of space to study. Cracked ceilings. The list of complaints was endless. And it still is.

Now, GW is about to name its new chief librarian. This person should see his or her role not only as the leader of the library, but also as a chief advocate for the student body.

GW students are fortunate to have the National Archives and the Folger Shakespeare Library near campus. Provost Steven Lerman said in March that because of the University’s close proximity to these libraries, GW has hesitated to invest in Gelman.

A college cannot neglect its own library just because there are others across the city.

A library is the most basic element of any college campus. It’s the starting point for research and academic pursuits. And if GW has any hopes of elevating its stature, the library has to at least be up to par.

Patrick Rochelle, a senior majoring in English, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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