Dewey devastation at the LRC

Lauren J. Mapp, Features Editor

San Diego Mesa College’s Learning Resource Center – used by approximately 22,000 people each week – has recently faced the potential of several drastic changes to the way that the space would be changed and repurposed over the next few years.

Though a process of shared governance is supposed to be followed in accordance with California Community College policy, this was originally circumvented in the attempt to make drastic changes in the LRC on Mesa College’s campus.

One of these changes lies in the proposed Disability Support Programs and Services High Tech Center moving from the second to the first floor to provide easier access to Mesa College students with disabilities. This was deemed as being necessary after a student was stuck on the second floor for hours during the blackout last September.

Since the new High Tech Center will be built where the print periodical stacks are currently placed, they will need relocated to the third floor. To make space for them there, it will require a consolidation of the library’s book collection.

Some of the decision-making in reducing printed books lies in the condition of the books and how often they are checked out, but the need for certain books can be hard to predict as syllabus adjustments are made each semester.

On Nov. 3, members of the library faculty were informed that five new language lab classrooms were to be built on the second floor of the LRC, meaning that the campus would lose between 12 and 13 group study rooms out of the 19 ones that are currently in popular demand.

Forty-three percent of the LRC’s seating is located on the second floor, and if this plan goes into effect as planned, it would decrease both the amount of quiet study and private group rooms available to students.

In addition to the physical reduction of the group and quiet study areas that would be lost due to the space needed to build the five classrooms, the noise pollution between classes would make the quiet study area ineffective.

“If this plan went through as it is currently designed, that is to put all the language courses or classes on the second floor, that would in effect make the area so noisy, and as Jean was saying we are often asked for more quiet study space,” said Devin Milner, the collection development librarian.

The California Community College shared governance policy AB 1725, which requires that any faculty, staff members or students that could potentially be affected by a change on a California state community college campus need to be consulted before the change is question is made.

According to Mesa College’s librarian faculty members, the way that the proposed changes to the LRC was originally presented – as an already completed plan – was in direct violation to this policy. The library’s staff and faculty were not consulted in creating the plan, nor were the students that depend on the library as a safe haven to study in.

The main concern of library faculty in this matter is that the students that depend on the LRC to study will be negatively impacted by the process of construction and the changes overall.

“It’ll affect our ability to help the students because not as many will be able to come here,” said online services and instruction librarian Alison Gurganus.

Gurganus later added that the LRC’s face-to-face resources need to be inviting, which she suspects would be difficult with limited, quiet study space. Proponents for the language lab suggest that study areas can be adapted in the new buildings once campus renovations are complete.

One reason why study areas within the library are necessary is because course reserve texts cannot be removed from the library at any time, so with limited space to study it will disrupt the current system. According to Milner, about 27,000 reserved books checkouts took place in 2010, and since these are for library use only, it is essential to have space in the library to use them.

“We feel like this has been and continues to be a quiet place for students to study a place where students can access course reserve materials where they can get help with research,” said Jean Smith, Library Department Chair.