Library Lobby Computers Moved to Basement And Student Activities to Help Silent Study

Upon returning from winter break, Phillips Academy students arrived at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) main lobby to find tables and chairs instead of seven desktop computers. OWHL moved three of the computers to the basement of the library and donated the other four to Student Activities. These computers will be set up in the Underwood Room and in the lounge area of George Washington Hall. Some students disagreed with the change, which came as part of an effort to decrease the congestion and noise level in the library. Elisabeth Tully, Director of the OWHL, wrote in the library newsletter, “We spent several months gathering data that confirmed our impression that the [lobby] computers were being used disproportionately for ‘social computing’ applications…[The computers were] at cross-purposes with the maintenance of an academic atmosphere on the main floor of the library.” Tully wrote, “We believe that the donation of… computers to Student Activities is a win-win [situation]. Students will be able to use the computers for social computing, and the main level of the library will be again available for quiet group study.” According to Tully, librarians were constantly telling students to be quieter. This new change, she hopes, will reduce the tension between librarians and students. Tully said, “Students on the computers often lose sight of their surroundings. The noise levels get so loud that they forget they are in the library.” She also said that she believes if the computer users are dispersed throughout the library, students will be encouraged to bring their own laptops to the library or loan out one of the library’s laptops, which are available at the front desk. After several conversations with students who seemed to like the new tables, the change seemed to Tully fairly successful. She said, “Although the lobby area is still noisy during conference period, the tables have definitely made a difference in noise level, especially in the evenings.” Jeffrey Marzluft, Associate Director for Instructional Services, has also noticed some improvement in noise level in the library lobby. “I have definitely seen a lot of people use those tables for quiet group study, which is cool,” he said. However, some students do not believe the library’s effort to create a quiet study space will be effective. Tommy Kramer ’11 said of the new lobby area, “You can’t get anything done up here. It’s kind of like a place to hang out now.” If given the choice, several students interviewed by The Phillipian would rather have the computers than the study tables in the main lobby. Katherine Svec ’10 said she used the lobby computers every day to check her email or to print out a document. Now, she frequently goes to the PACC, which she said was not as convenient as the lobby computers. Julie Helmers ’10 said, “I would prefer the computers because there are plenty of tables or places to do your work elsewhere, but computers are harder to find, unless you go to the PACC, which is often crowded and is a more strict environment [than the lobby].” Students also have mixed feelings about the computers being set up in GW and Underwood. Svec said that she likes the idea of moving the computers to GW, “but not at the cost of taking them away from the library.” She added, “They should all go to GW. I personally don’t go to Underwood a lot.” Kramer said, “I don’t think there’s enough space [in GW and Underwood]. There would be so many people there using the computers. It would be much easier just to have [the computers] in the library.”