Campus has undergone quite a few building reconstructions over the last couple of years. The most dramatic change is the transformation of Ramaker Center and the construction of the Learning Commons. Although changes in outer structures are obvious, what has a surprisingly greater effect on students is the furniture within these structures.
Those who recall Ramaker Library before its renovation, such as upperclassmen, remember the giant swivel chairs and soft, plush couches of the old library. The difference? A campus library that once housed cozy furniture has transformed into two buildings with clean-lined, modern furniture. The question is: are these changes best for students?
“I think that when they picked out the furniture they were going for a modern look, to impress the board, prospectives and other visitors to campus,” said Amber McCoy, a senior who has worked at the circulation desk for both Ramaker and now the Learning Commons. “Personally, I am not a big fan of the furniture. I think it’s very modern and ugly. But I’m not a big fan of modern things.”
The modernity of the furniture is not just personal preference. McCoy worries that the new furniture will quickly become outdated.
“I remember the decorator coming in when the Learning Commons first opened saying the blue would probably never be outdated, but the green definitely would,” said McCoy. “The furniture is definitely in that green color.”
On the other hand, Dr. Heather Josselyn-Cranson, professor of music ministry, thinks that the spaces in the Learning Commons seem to be flourishing.
“When I was on sabbatical and thinking about places I could do my work I thought, ‘Oh, there are these study carols upstairs. I could just use one of those,’” Josselyn-Cranson said. “But I was informed that they were almost always filled.”
Josselyn-Cranson originally thought that these spaces were only filling up at night. She then found that they were also being filled in the early morning when the Learning Commons opened.
A great benefit in the new furniture is its versatility and mobility.
“Pieces can be easily rearranged and moved around for different purposes, and we like to see how students do that,” said Interim Director of the library Greta Grond. She also said that students seem to be finding their own space in the Dewitt Learning Commons.
“Some students prefer studying out in the open, while others claim out of the way nooks,” Grond said. “[They] also seem to appreciate having space to arrange their things, so the large tables are used often. Last week, I enjoyed seeing students studying outside on both outdoor patio areas.”
Does the versatility in furniture make up for the lack of coziness? Though the furniture may be more attention-grabbing, it might not be what students are looking for in the end.
Coziness can have its downfalls. Brady Dyson admits this fact.
“I actually fell asleep for the first time in a public space in one of those [giant swivel chairs],” Dyson said.
“When we were planning the building, we had samples of furniture options available in Ramaker Library for students to try out,” said Grond. “If I remember correctly, students were concerned about comfort, and I feel the chairs purchased for the Learning Commons are comfortable, even when sitting for long periods.”
Though there is a lot support for the furniture in the Learning Commons, most students and faculty did not have much input on Ramaker Center. However, there is hope that students will use the space in the future.
“We’re hoping that students will really make a home here,” said Josselyn-Cranson. “That all students will come in and use the fireplace and find comfortable spots and places for meetings. You can’t control what people do, but the hope is that this will be a good place for students.”