In Search of the New Thacher Library

Home to over 20,000 books, 70 periodicals, and a host of online magazines, newspapers, and ebooks, the library is the academic heart of the Thacher campus. By day, the space offers a light social environment and by night, the library becomes a haven for upperclassmen looking to study. Often times, however, students struggle to find common ground between the two.

Over the course of the fall trimester, upperclassmen Nicole Bassolino ‘18 and Jeffrey Ding ‘18 have undertaken an independent to re-organize the library in a way that fosters creativity, studying, and collaboration.

As of now, the library remains a stagnant environment in which collaborative and personal areas are constrained by fixed furniture. “If you want to create a space better suited to your needs,” Nicole explained, “you can’t really do that because [the library] is stationary.” Especially during school hours when working in classrooms is unfeasible, the library’s stagnant atmosphere becomes apparent in the limited workspace frequently occupied by upperclassmen. Additionally, although the library is meant to function as a quiet space, sound travels easily through its corridors and can result in unwanted disturbances.

To resolve these issues, Nicole and Jeffrey have taken an active role in the community, using surveys to gauge library usage and better understand the student body’s needs and wants. During study halls, they have observed student behaviors throughout the library, taking note of their peers’ work habits inside and outside the library. Additionally, they have presented their research to the Thacher faculty and held open discussions at formal dinner to generate broader interest and excitement.

According to Jeffrey, “We can’t encompass everyone’s wants and needs without their help.” Largely stimulated by student suggestions, including a library coffee machine, bean bag chairs, and blankets, the project has become a bilateral exchange of ideas in which Jeffrey and Nicole are a student voice for constructive change. In effect, students have laid the groundwork for their plans, allowing them to redesign an innovative space carefully tailored to the community.

Currently, Nicole and Jeffrey plan to introduce several minor changes to the library layout and furniture, whether that means implementing moveable desks or rearranging the stacks to accommodate for isolated workspaces. According to their observations, these small alterations could drastically reshape the library, creating a dynamic atmosphere that seamlessly combines productivity with offhand socializing.

As Nicole described, “We’re trying to figure out a way in which the world of an independent student can exist simultaneously with the world of kids that are a little bit loud.”

While the two have made great progress, their work has not been without difficulties. Long-term and complex, the project has required extensive labor and careful attention to detail. Sometimes, their statistics are skewed, and they have had to accommodate for factors such as misrepresentation amongst the differing grades— surveys have been catered to reflect the differing library usage among underclassmen and upperclassmen. Furthermore, construction, a process pocked with uncertainty and unpredictability, must take place over winter break and could potentially raise budgetary concerns as well. To this end, Nicole and Jeffrey are still unsure when or if students will see physical change, although they hope students can enjoy slight modifications by the end of the year.

Having sparked conversation around campus and successfully garnered student support, the two view their goals as a foreseeable reality. In fact, Nicole and Jeffrey recently sent out a survey proposing a new layout that would eliminate several stacks in exchange for two new collaborative spaces: one private and one public. This layout received wide student approval and could mirror the final product. Looking forward, this library project is the precursor to a larger Thacher initiative to remodel the humanities building. Within the coming years, future students can look forward to a flexible redesign centered on collaboration, innovation, and interdisciplinary education.

Nicole and Jeffrey have dedicated immense time and effort to their re-imagining of the Thacher library. While they have yet to put dates to tangible change, both have expressed pride in their achievements and contributions.

“Even at the end of the day” Nicole stated, “if we’ve only sparked conversation and gotten students involved in the discussion, I think we’ve at least done something.”