Books are one of the first things that people think of when they picture libraries. However, Bailey Library at Slippery Rock University plans to remove some of their books to make way for a new mathematics lab space, featuring computers with math specific software and set to arrive this fall.
Philip Tramdack, Director of Library Services, said this transition away from books is not unexpected. “There are more people in here than ever before but fewer actual print books being checked out.”
He said that the move to digital is part of the reason for the shift. “Now that the average person has some kind of electronic device or multiple devices, more and more people are choosing electronic content over print content. They’ll seek out electronic content.”
Although witnessing this, Tramdack still says that print is sometimes the best place to find answers. “Even if we know ‘better’ where to find the information, does it really pay to have all that real estate tied up with print?” he said.
“What we’re actually looking at right now is a change in the nature of what people think an academic library is for,” Tramdack said. “Maybe it should be more of a multipurpose space that serves people in different ways with the focus being on teaching learning and development. Maybe what we should be doing is rethinking our collection and focusing more on stuff people want, like for instance books that have been checked out in the last ten years.” He said that there are books that have never been checked out of the library.
He thinks that having a math lab in the library will function to help students utilize the library.
“That’s where the intelligence of putting a math lab is. This is a good place for a math lab, better than putting it off in some building somewhere which is say a classroom building. It’s better to be here because the people will come here to take advantage of the math lab but they can also take advantage of our collections, take advantage of our group study space, and enjoy the social atmosphere of the library,” Tramdack said. “If we can reinforce teaching and learning in the math lab, this is a resource to help good students get better.”
While Tramdack said there is not so much a demand for a math lab in the library, he did say that there is a “perceived need for that kind of support service.” It has yet to be determined if students will be able to use the math lab for anything besides math projects, but Tramdack promised that the math lab, once it’s in the library will be used.
“I’m not sure about the guidelines or the conditions [for the math lab]. I can tell you that a room full of computers that are not being used, they’re just getting old. They’re just losing their relevance as they sit there,” Tramdack said. While he believes the intent to be specific to math-related activities, he does not want the librarians to turn away students in need of the computers if they are not in use. “Better than just locking the door,” Tramdack said.
He said one big reason to put the math lab in the library is accessibility and said he could even picture putting the writing lab in the library too. “We’re open more than a lot of buildings and we have people here to help so it makes sense to put something in here like that.”
“We see the success of our technology learning center and it begins to dawn on us that maybe the idea of having services in the library that help student development is a good use for the library,” Tramdack said.
“The complicated problem that we have to solve is in order to make space for the student services how do we deal with those collections [of books] and how do we change, in a way, the significance of the library and the purpose for it without harming our patrons.”