Out with the new, in with the old
The university needs to be innovative with current space before taxing students and the environment with a new student building
The proposal for the new student services building is on the table from students, as Feds exec race to have some input into the UW administration’s planned student building and leave a lasting legacy for students.
According to the student feedback Feds received, they have a clear mandate to demand a building that has space for student services, study space, social space, food kiosks, and it must also look iconic. Given the location of the proposed building, I don’t see how it can avoid being overshadowed by the truly impressive building on UW’s campus, the Dana Porter Library.
There is an ongoing idea floating around UW administration that would solve most of these issues, giving students greater study space, a place to print, prayer space, and give the admin some office space without having to break more ground and creating greater environmental impact on campus.
That grand idea was repurposing the Dana Porter Library by shifting books to a warehouse and refurbishing the existing space. It is an idea that seems to make sense. Last year 3,208,127 people made use of the library, and yet only 180,349 materials were loaned out last year.
Obviously, the main purpose of the library is no longer simply to access research materials, it has become a place for social and study space. The university has 1,465,159 print titles, and when only 180,349 of those titles gets loaned out over a calendar year that means over 87 per cent of the university’s library holdings are sitting around gathering dust.
The university already makes use of off-campus storage for some of its print materials. The TriUniversity Group (TUG) of libraries has a storage facility called The Annex, located in Guelph, that serves as a repository for the TUG libraries’ less-used library resources. Just over a quarter of the university’s library shelving is located off-campus. The main question is, how far should the university go with this initiative?
If the university has 27 per cent of it’s least-used books already off-campus, then perhaps as much as 60 per cent of the current on-campus holdings to an expanded TUG facility or a new warehouse built on campus without students noticing. With six of Dana Porter’s ten currently being used to store library materials, the university could free up at least three floors which would provide the necessary space for student and administrative purposes.
Essentially, an assessment would have to be done by the university to examine the opportunities costs for that space; but potentially, there could be a minimal negative impact on students that would create a positive outcome. An idea such as this would take care of the needs cited in three of the four planned floors of the new student building.
Students should not have to pay for their own study and social space, we should only need to pay for space that is geared toward specific student services and businesses. It’s also an idea that the university can afford. If the new student building will be similar to the one proposed in 2009, it will cost over $1 million in operating costs each year. The university had previously earmarked $5.1 million for the project, so they could use that money to expand the library’s off-campus warehouse.
The question that needs to be answered everyone involved is whether we truly need to have another building taking up greenspace on campus, or we can increase the efficiency of current space on campus? I hope we can work to secure the latter and leave a much better legacy on campus.