Apr 4th, 2018, 11:46 AM

Closing a Chapter in the Library

By Charnice Goldsborough
Photo by Redd Angelo/Unsplash
In Spring 2019 the library will become a common learning center, joining with other student services offered on campus.

The library is an old relic to AUP. The 19th-century building on Rue de Monttessuy has been a part of the university since the 70s. From then on, the library collection has expanded gradually in resources and capacity. 

Today, however, the capacity is close to being reached due to our relatively small library building. There are plans to take it to a bigger, and more digital space. Next year in Spring 2019, the library along with other academic resources are scheduled to be built into one entire student center dubbed 'the Learning Commons'. It will be in the Quai building connected behind Combes. One major concern expressed by some students and professors is the possibility of the library becoming too digital. If it did, could it lose its old charm?

AUP students have already transitioned to the digital. It seems that the majority students use mostly digital resources, but still appreciate and use physical resources offered. I interviewed a small group of students on their feelings about the library, and to see if it's more relevant for students to have more digital or traditional library. When I asked how often they all went to the library, the overall response was at least a weekly or monthly basis, which varied with the amount of work they had.

Then when asked about what resources they use at the library, all of them primarily relied on or preferred the digital resources. Chelsea Kay, a Marketing major, shared that "[she uses] the online resources a lot like JSTOR, academic search complete and Statista and sometimes books from the stacks if necessary but that's about it." Another student, comparative-lit sophomore Ellis Carter said, "I've used all the resources in the library, primarily the electronic journals such as EBSCOhost. I also use a lot of books and DVDs from time to time."

Though AUP students are likely to adjust to the more digital library, there's still an appreciation for the books on the library shelves. "I like browsing the books they have on my major. I browse maybe once a month. It’s a tiny library but I think their spotlights are cool... Spotlights as in the stands they make about new books," Art history student Destiny Jones explained. The rest of the students had similar responses, which they also liked browsing the books occasionally.

One student actually preferred to go to another library. The soon to graduate senior, Eleanor Dickinson, disclosed "For browsing the books, unfortunately, the library mostly has academic books. And the novels they have are too marked up and have an ancient uncomfortable binding, so I come to the AUP library for good research sources. I have a subscription to the American Library in Paris for all my other reading needs as they have a more contemporary collection."

The transition from the library to the Learning Commons will have an impact on not just students, but professors as well. How they share resources and teach their classes, in general, could be affected. I asked one of the AUP professors, Justin McGuinness for his opinion on the inevitable, digital change to the library. He commented, "...it is unfortunate that we are moving to a system of sliding stacks, with books being stocked in a basement area. However, if the general trend is towards more and higher quality digital materials, then the university must go with that." Professor McGuinness then added a suggestion helpful for any book enthusiasts,  "You must visit the American Library in Paris -which is 'at the back' of the AUP library. In fact, there is a door  (I think) in the basement of the AUP library which links our collections to those of the American Library. Get a sense of what their space is like - very nice if you want my opinion, and what AUP library should be like - at least in physical terms."

For more information about the library and to resolve any concerns, I spoke with two of the university librarians Jorge Sosa and Mike  Stoepel. 

Is this true the new library is becoming more digitalized?

Jorge: It is true. We’ve done a good job at making a slimmer collection, we have more access to ebooks, e-journals, and periodicals. We started four or five years ago incorporating e-books.

Michael: We’ve already started the process of adding e-books and journals, it didn’t start just now with the new library. It’s a general trend in the library world.

J: 500,000 e-books, with physical books. The purpose is to integrate and help all kinds of students

M: For research e-books and e-journals are amazing, it makes it much easier for everyone. It’s more access to information, and it’s going to go further on.

What about those who have fears about a more digital library? That e-books could replace the tangible, traditional books?

J: Students actually request books and we take the requests and buy them. We will still have books in the new library. There will be 500,000 e-books with the current physical books. The purpose is to integrate and help all kinds of students. Students have different learning style, we have to respect their preferences.

M: Also if a book is never used, we’ll have to get rid of it.

Where will this new library be, and would it be about the same size as our current library?

J: It’s not going to be just the library, but it’s going to be an entire student center. You have ARC, you have TLC (Teaching Learning Center), the Research center (top floor),  careers and internships. There will be some classrooms and study rooms for each floor.

M: The library would be called the Learning Common or the Quai building.

J: If you want to talk to an ARC tutor to help with your writing, you could also talk to library staff nearby.

Will there be a lot of library staff around in the new library or would students rely on more on digital assistance?

J: Both. We’ll have the same amount of staff, but there will be more digital assistance for students. For example, they can reserve a room [through a computer].

M: And we want to add digital assistance so it makes it easy for staff and students. Not to further complicate things.

How will this digital library affect the hours?

M: In a way, you have 24/7 access to the digital library because you can go online. About the building and library space, it’s going to along with the new building hours. But it will be expanded.

J: Yeah the hours can be open until 8 p.m., until midnight, and 2 a.m.

What will happen to the current library building after the new one is built?

J: If we have more students coming to campus we might need to keep renting it.

M: It’ s open at the moment.

J: But if we have to get rid of it I'd like to throw a [going away] party.

Jorge also said that alumni can get a card and pop by the new library space, but one can only access the physical library, not the digital one. However you can pay the library a small deposit to still be able to use all their resources. 

With the consideration of all opinions, the future of the library or the Learning Commons has both its pros and cons. The pros being it is easier access to information, both digitally and physically, for AUP students due to the current library being quite far from the rest of the campus buildings. The cons could be a diminishing collection of AUP library books, as well as the possibility of losing another building that has held a long history with the AUP campus, such as the Bosquet building (R.I.P.).

Like the times in Ancient Greece and the Victorian era, the resources and curriculum corresponded naturally to their period. Perhaps it is the duty of academia now to shift with the ever-changing, increasingly digital world we live in.