Drexel University’s W.W. Hagerty Library, which opened in 1984 on the corner of Market and 33rd streets, is often a subject of student criticism. The primary complaint is lack of space. The library can only seat five percent of the Drexel student body, and questions have been raised about why the library has not been moved or renovated to accommodate the student population.
“People do say they love the library — and they say they need more,” Vice President of University Facilities Robert Francis said.
Francis and Dean of Libraries Danuta Nitecki are proud to say that they are both Drexel alumni. Nitecki and Francis agree that libraries are the heart of a campus, not just physically, but as places that draw students together. “Librariness,” a word coined by Francis, is central to every campus and they assert that Drexel’s library is in the perfect central spot.
“It’s not just the space. We ask ourselves not only how we help you find information but how we help you use it,” Nitecki explained.
The library offers workshops, social events involving things such as Italian ice, orientations, resources for graduate students and rehearsal space for big presentations. Nitecki explained that as we come into the age where most information is located online, the library is more about how the student can explore information at the library and outside of the library. It has interdisciplinary functions — the multiple spaces in which students can utilize information and build bridges between majors allows students to cohesively work together. For this it offers four physical spaces, the W.W. Hagerty Library, the Hahnemann Library in Center City, the Library Learning Terrace and a library on the Queen Lane campus. The library considers its fifth space to be cyberspace, now that 98 percent of funds go towards making sure students have electronic resources wherever they are, whenever they need them.
Francis said that the library’s only limitation is its physical space — it is impossible to vertically expand the building. Nitecki and Francis said they have considered other spaces on campus for the library, but above all they want the library to remain in a central location on campus, and the present location on Market and 33rd streets is central indeed.
Nitecki pointed out two distinct traits of Drexel students — first, they are grateful to have a study space at all. Second, Drexel students tend to have lower expectations of study spaces.
When students were asked to name their ideal study space, opinions ranged from a quiet area on the academic quad to the squash court. Francis reinforced the idea of moving forward with what the library has instead of focusing on moving it completely. He pointed out that no matter how many seats are added to the library, students will still ask for more.
The $10 million the library has in funding from private donors and the Hagerty family keeps the doors open, keeps the library hours running later during exam weeks and allows Nitecki and Francis to sit down and plan how to expand.
Nitecki said the library used to have a food service, which she would appreciate having back for students, and the library is far away from having the money it would need to renovate or move to a new location.
“The library would have to be in a good, stable place to move if the funding was there — and I’m not sure we’re in that place right now. We can do more at our current location for students than we could if we moved,” Nitecki said.
Nitecki sought to clarify that there is a difference between the library and the dropdown study spaces on campus. In fact, she proudly said study spaces such as at the Race Street Residences contribute to a student’s ability to access information and use the space to suit their needs in a very different way than the library does, pointing out their use as gathering spaces for study groups, especially in the Gerri C. LeBow College of Business. She made it clear the library is not trying to compete with the study spaces on campus, and the study spaces are not trying to compete with the library; they each serve students well and Nitecki said she would personally like more study spaces.
“The library will have its turn. The University has other priorities right now. Yes, it is getting higher on the list,” Nitecki declared.
It was not just Nitecki and Francis who wanted to express that the library’s capacity to work for its students transcends the physical boundaries of the building. When asked, student opinion showed a repeated trend of favoring the library, despite contrary opinions in the past. “I love to be there,” biology major William Hart said.
The library is seeking to offer its programs and resources on every Drexel campus, in classrooms and online as well by utilizing the funding it receives in a way that will suit the best interest of students. Even though it isn’t a top priority facility, the Hagerty Library is striving to serve students every day despite the confines of its physical location.