We appreciate the thoughtfully expressed endorsement of the value of W. W. Hagerty Library as an expected academic resource important for student success, expressed in the April 22 editorial “Put this on the books.”
There is recognition, throughout the University, that the amount of space available for students to study is inadequate. With today’s population of approximately 26,000 students, we approximate that nearly 5 percent of the student population can simultaneously occupy a seat within one of Drexel’s libraries, which currently provide a total of 1,235 seats across four locations. This represents a 3.5 percent increase of library seating since 2014 when there were 1,193 library seats.
This net gain of 42 seats was realized through changes in layout, updates to furnishings and renovations that repurposed staff spaces. We expect to add seating to the 24/7 Bookmark Café when the kitchen equipment once used for retail services is removed later this year. Building the Library Learning Terrace in 2011 added 70 seats for undergraduates to study until 2 a.m. during terms to complement the loss of access to the third floor of the Hagerty Library. The changed designation of the third floor enabled the Law School to obtain and maintain important accreditation for its program; the Legal Research Center is open to all Drexel students after 6:00 p.m. most days during the academic year.
There is currently no plan to build a new library facility, and planners have confirmed that we cannot add floors to the existing structure. However, there is a high level commitment to renovate Hagerty Library. The University has examined how to maximize the Hagerty Library site and existing footprint to provide additional seating for students to study. An architectural design completed two years ago demonstrates how 200 seats could be added.
Meanwhile, we have begun to update technologies in newly designated areas to ensure that any student, regardless of major has centrally convenient space to discover ideas. We are reimagining the Library as an Information Exploratorium, stimulating and enabling students to read alone, share insights with both peers and others with diverse views, and work together with experts and fellow learners to analyze text and data and practice communicating their newly uncovered knowledge.
Coming to a library to study is a part of the college experience and at Drexel we have data to suggest entering the physical library facility positively differentiates those who stay enrolled from those who leave college. Conversations with students have clearly communicated the desire for a seat in the library, but more so, why this is important. Repeatedly, we hear that “the library offers an environment, without distractions, where one can focus on learning, and where others there are similarly engaged.”
Though we continue to work at adding seats to the Libraries, we also hope they will be occupied by new age learners, eager to take ownership of their environments for informal learning beyond the classroom and labs.
A strategy to complement library learning environments around campus continues. University Facilities has added over 450 seats for students to study. Some are clustered in hallways or lobbies, convenient for short between-class reading and reviews over lunch. Others, as found in the Gerri C. LeBow Hall and the Papadakis Integrated Science Building invite longer stays at tables and seats, convenient for refreshments.
Through the transition over coming years, Drexel’s three prong strategies will continue—to better utilize existing library spaces through renovations, add drop-down seating wherever new construction offers spaces, and seek donor funding to expand library square footage to bring together technologies, experts, and diverse content.
Thank you for the invitation to clarify what is being done about library seating. Comments and questions may be directed to us through the Triangle. You may also email us at [email protected] where we will gladly share progress in transitioning the Libraries for improved student college and learning experiences.
Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, and
Robert Francis, Vice President, Facilities and Real Estate