The St Andrews Library: friend or foe?

If you had the opportunity to sit down with the library and tell her how you really felt, what would you say? Would you praise the library for its small quaint café? Would you express gratitude for the IT service which resuscitated your dying laptop? Or would you tell her how grateful you are for the hard-working and friendly attitudes of her employees who are always on standby to help us find that elusive book? It is of course useful to have access to these services in the library, but I have a suspicion that the overall tone of this exchange may be a little more scathing.

The central criticism of the library to almost every student’s mind is its insufficient seating capacity. “Why, library, does yours cater to less than ten percent of the student body? Why must it be that in Week 3, you are practically full in mid-afternoon?” I can only dread the imminent examination period, during which no doubt I will have to rise at an ungodly hour to be guaranteed a space. The most obvious question I have for the library as a here-and-now solution is “why do you grant entry to first years”? Yes, I propose a library ban for first years. They don’t need a space in the library, and they know it. Even if they do feel the need to get that revision for SA1001 in early, there are pleasant and plentiful study spaces situated in most halls of residence.

Photo: Pixabay

And don’t get us started on the seating vs journals vote. The digitisation of these journals should have happened long ago in response to the growing university population, which of course caused a growing demand for library seats. In fact, digitisation of a greater proportion of library books in general would be an ideal relief to this problem. And please do something about the parkers! Half an hour for coffee? Not a problem. An hour for lunch in the middle of a hard day’s work? Sure. But leaving one notepad on a desk for three hours? Not on, and a system to prevent this should be implemented.

Library, we also all want to know what on earth you were thinking with the toilet situation. One cannot ignore the pied piper’s procession eternally slinking out of the ladies’, and to have three male cubicles in the entire building is entirely questionable. The situation is worsened by your necessity to have them cleaned at such frequent intervals, presumably necessary due to flooding with the tears of the aforementioned students that couldn’t find a seat.

Photo: Pixabay

We would need to talk about the library’s aesthetic. Her décor is stark and clinical…an endless sea of white tables and bricks. One could go as far as describing it as prison-like. As a place for reading Cicero, or studying the anatomy of a human, this doesn’t quite work. The dreich, drab, beigey tones of the library can stifle thought and creativity, and sadly the main motivation to keep calm and carry on with whatever assignment you’re battling is the audience of fellow library-goers that surrounds you, thanks once again to how full the place is. Moreover, despite the seeming abundance of windows in the library, very little natural light enters the building. The substitute for this is bright, blinding lights which I can only assume ended up in the library due to a light fittings mix-up with Ninewell’s operating theatre.

It’s true, if we did get this opportunity to give face-to-face ‘feedback’ to the library, she’d be in for quite the hammering. Honestly, we have not a clue what the designers of the library were thinking when they thought 1000 seats would suffice, when they thought brown wooden panelling was an attractive look, and when they decided on a 40 to 1 seat to toilet ratio. With regards to all these bewildering decisions, we would ask the library ‘why’ they were made, and more importantly, ‘when’ they will be rectified.

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