Crumb Library is a very strange place today. My office looks very little like my office — no little plastic dragons by the phone, no plants on my filing cabinet, no overstuffed binders behind my laptop, no intimidating piles of paper on my desk — as I pack up to move out for the summer. The second floor looks so bare, without students swarming over all the group study tables, the beanbag chairs sitting in corners, looking droopy and forlorn without a student plopped into them, and no laptop power cords sprouting from the top of the wired study carrels. The first floor is even weirder, with empty black shelves where our current periodical issues normally live, a long white counter devoid of plants, tissues, hand sanitizer, computer kiosks, and reference librarians, and a dozen tables and dozens of chairs pulled up to dusty squares where computers used to sit.
I know it will all be back in August, better and shinier for having been cleaned, reorganized, had new HVAC and windows installed, with a fresh crop of students to populate the space… but for now, this just feels like a shell of my workplace, and a shell of my work. If there are no students while we’re closed for three months, who are we? The daily presence of our users really keeps me focused on why I do what I do, and this is an odd moment for me. I may have to start working some afternoons in the Student Union Food Court, if only to remind myself of the community I serve. (Also, they have pizza.)
Given that I just finished assembling a Pecha Kucha style presentation on the current relationship of the College Libraries to a Learning Commons, and our future therein, this shell of a building, devoid of users, feels really hollow. We don’t exist to be a library; we exist to serve our community of learners. Without the learners, is there a library?
This summer the answer is a forcible “yes, of course there is”. But I may have to lean on that pizza to remind myself that the ideas that sparkle with brilliance from the futon in my home office may not shine so bright when held up to the light of our libraries and our users.