Has Newton Gresham Library lost its spark?

“Where can I find the textbook I’m looking for? Do you have a certain book in stock? How long can I check this out for?” These are the typical questions you should be hearing around the library during the buzz of finals week.  Instead, one of the most common inquisitions muttered throughout the Newton Gresham Library (NGL) is “Hey, is there a plug over there?”

Any library regular knows the struggle of endlessly wandering the acres of bookshelves searching for a table with an electrical outlet. One can spend nearly half an hour walking from floor to floor in search of plugs for their laptops. In other words, picture SHSU’s parking situation. The problem that everyone faces trying to find a parking spot at 8 a.m. on Monday mornings is comparable to what it feels like trying to find outlets in the library during peak times.

Seating itself is not the issue. Seating that supports studying with electronic devices is. The wastefulness of outlet placement in the library is, for the lack of better word, annoying. Going to the library is serious business if you are there to actually study, but to impede a student’s time studying almost defeats the purpose of a university library if students are stuck looking for an electrical outlet instead of maximizing their time to study.

From the outside, NGL appears to be a spacious, four-floor structure. Not everywhere in the library is designed to be a study area, though. The first floor consists of different departments and services. The second floor is the more social floor. It embodies Starbucks, an IT@Sam computer lab, library computers and printers, group study tables, and even reserved tables for tutoring, but really does not support independent studying. The third and fourth floors, the “Quiet Areas,” are similar in structure. Book shelves take up the majority of the space, while cubicles and tables make up the perimeter of each floor.

Like any building, NGL has an abundance of windows. These windows pose the issue that plugs cannot line them, hence the wasted space. NGL attempted to tackle this issue with floor outlets between tables, many of which do not usually work. The fourth floor also has the majority of the outlets, while the second and third floors have outlets more sparingly. Those coveted fourth floor outlets bring a migration of students every day, however, limiting the space that is left for newly-arriving students each afternoon.

Students can avoid the expedition for plugs by sitting at the small cubicles that are more regularly populated with outlets.  Space becomes an issue again, though, as they can hardly accommodate a laptop and a large textbook with their fortress-like structure. These cubicles give library goers no space to stretch out or be comfortable during their multi-hour visits.

If students decide that the cubicles are not for them, they can always go down to the first floor and check out one of the 10 private study rooms. The rooms can only be reserved for two hours at a time, and quite frankly have such aesthetic shortcomings that they almost provide more of a prison-like environment than a library.

SHSU will experience another tuition increase in 2018. A portion of this increase involves the Library Fee swelling by $3.50. This fee could potentially be put to good use seeing as SHSU has a student population of over 20,000, which could generate more than $70,000 for the library. The fee could be used to provide the library with more plugs at the tables or perhaps even just a restoration of the current plugs that are questionable in their reliance on a day-to-day basis.  The main goal of this fee increase, however, does not appear to be library renovation.

“We have a lot of the staff right now that work in the library that are not on the library staff itself,” University President Dana G. Hoyt said during an open talk to students. “They’re being paid for by other sources. What we’re doing is we’re trying to clean it up a little bit more so we can pay the library staff with the library fee.”

Students face a multitude of dilemmas when navigating college life.  Sacrifices must be made sometimes, such as giving up sleep to finish a project or staying home on the night before an early class. It seems to me that with all the time and money students dedicate to their university; foregoing study time to look for an electrical outlet at a spacious table in a four-story library should not be on that list.

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