Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty-one Years of Service to the Student


Too Much Time Behind the Book Stacks?

Empty urban furniture clashes with library décor [Andrew Parsons / The Index]. Empty urban furniture clashes with library décor [Andrew Parsons / The Index].

Neon fabric and rectilinear urbanistic couches now crowd the second floor of the Upjohn Library Commons.

For returning students, the furnishing change has been controversial. Breaking from the library’s traditional, American heritage styled interior, the new modular seating clashes with Upjohn Library Commons’ traditional dark wood décor and muted amber-brown palette.

“Impractical, counter-productive, and inconsistent with the goal of the space,” described Sivhaun Sera ’18. Sera isn’t alone in her take of the replacement.

Conservatively opined as “unique” and otherwise openly described as “hideous,” “uncomfortable,” “mismatched,” and “unnecessary,” K students have hardly spoken highly of the library’s updates.

Alarmingly, the library’s administration seems oblivious to the general campus consensus.

Dr. Stacy Nowicki, Library Director, and Joisan DeHaan, Office Coordinator and Circulation Assistant, shared with The Index the administration’s perception of the furniture update’s reception.

“So far the reception has been positive,” Dr. Nowicki wrote, “I have had no complaints since students returned this fall.”

Dr. Nowicki went on to describe the furniture replacement as a project in the works for “the last few years” and a decision made after taking into account noise complaints from students who frequently work in the Reading Room.

The library is out of touch with student wants and needs. While the library has moved forward with the belief that it acted in the best interest of K students, our data shows otherwise. What can explain such a discrepancy? The library simply isn’t attuned to campus consensus, or may have intentionally dismissed student feedback.

“It’s a waste of space that could be used more effectively,” one Circulation Desk Assistant told The Index.

In The Index’s most recent poll of 100 students, 83% responded that they “would prefer more tables” in the space outside the reading room, with only 10 students providing positive feedback. The library’s administration didn’t provide comment on the poll about which the The Index inquired.

K Student sentiment on Upjohn Library Commons' new second-floor furniture. Created via Survey Monkey [Janelle Grant / The Index].

K Student sentiment on Upjohn Library Commons’ new second-floor furniture. Created via Survey Monkey [Janelle Grant / The Index].

Even more alarming is an apparent promotion of nonacademic usage of the space. Students and faculty may regard napping in an academic environment as rather dubious, but the library finds otherwise.

A 7% respondent minority claims that the lounge furniture is “a new place to nap,” seemingly consistent with the library’s goal of establishing a space that will “discourage group study and will be an inviting place for students to…nap.”

The Upjohn Library Commons is a place to work and study, not lounge and nap. As students we take pride in and are grateful for the aesthetic of our workspace and we value its productive spaces. Should the library wish to continue to provide support for the student body, then it must be more attune to and receptive of campus consensus. Perhaps it’s time to step out of the book stacks and listen to student needs.

4 Comments on Too Much Time Behind the Book Stacks?

  1. A Concerned Student // October 6, 2016 at 9:32 PM // Reply

    Classic K College. Add these tables to the list things that look good but are not practical. Others on this list include: New weight room with no AC, K sports busses with no outlets or working TVs. I know this sounds like a complaint, but I’d prefer the school to use the allocated money to create practical change rather than pretty change.

  2. I abhor these new furniture-things. They’re unattractive and offsetting, intensely uncomfortable and challenging to sit oneself in (in any fashion), and are just plain odd. Though I do understand the desire of those that frequent the Reading Room to study for a more constant quiet, if there are going to be couches or alternative seating, let it be something somewhat reasonable to sit on and study adequately in. Y’know? (I’m not tall, but I also feel for these 6’3″ individuals that try to sit and have to scrunch themselves in a certain way in order to sit down, which looks horribly uncomfortable.)
    They [the couches] can be faced away from the Reading Room to reduce sound resonance into that room, too.
    So many options and K chose this one. Lol okay.

  3. As a tour guide, I am truly embarrassed to take prospective students to the second floor of the library now. Aside from the fact that these chairs are truly hideous– and not at all in keeping with the beauty of the reading room– it is INFURIATING that there was money to be spent on furniture and students were not consulted. There are plenty of places on campus where new furniture would be much appreciated– even other parts of the library (it is pretty common for students to request more tables and/or comfortable armchairs, and the Book Club chairs are falling apart). It would have been very easy to find students to consult on this matter– it is ridiculous that they weren’t.

  4. I think it is really unfair to say that the library is “out of touch with student wants and needs”. I could provide many counter examples to this claim.

    I respect that different people will have different opinions about this particular decision and the style, colors, placement, etc. But to disparage the library administration entirely based on one difference of opinion is unfair. To further that disparagement in public and on social media is also problematic.

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Too Much Time Behind the Book Stacks?