By JOE FRANCISCO
Anyone who frequents ODY has a favorite spot. Look around next time you’re there, then come back and look again. The regulars will be just where you last saw them. The library has been quiet lately (as a library should be), but that will change come midterms time. And then there’s finals, when every last tree house and room will be occupied. Space, in general, is plentiful in the North Country. Library space, not so much.
My daily routine involves several spaces, one of which is ODY. Within the library, I’ve got a few favorite spots. One of them is a table in the far back-right of the main floor, over by University archives and Popular Literature. If you face Herring-Cole, you will be face-to-face with what is often referred to as the ‘Canoe Room.’ It’s a space where students can go to work on group projects without disturbing the rest of the library. Or it used to be. Now there is a key code entry pad with a red light, and a brushed steel plaque declaring it the CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING.
What is the CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING? Isn’t our university, by definition, a “center for teaching and learning”? Some research revealed the following: There are no events listed online for the CTL since September 9th, 2011, when the new location for the CENTER was inaugurated. The room is used officially once every other week for seminars. Professors can stop by for an “informal exchange of ideas and expertise.” The sign-up sheet outside of the room (for a formal exchange of expertise) shows that only one professor has requested to use the room in the past week. The room was used almost daily by professors and their classes in what I now refer to as “the open years.” It used to be one of the first choices for students working on group projects. Now, it is locked 24/7, even after faculty go home for the day.
This change is part of a larger pattern, though. Due to a greater number of incoming freshmen and “Master Planning,” changes in the way we use space are occurring all around campus; just look behind Whitman. Last year, the CTL occupied a residential building at 62 Park Street. It wasn’t used that often, and administrators thought that it might have something to do with the distance of the building from the center of campus. Now at ODY, it has literally moved across the street, and not much has changed. Faculty attitudes towards the CENTER are lukewarm by most accounts, hardly justifying administrative appropriation of student space.
We need a plan for University growth. This campus has historically been averse to change. Even the Student Center was controversial when it was instated. The CTL, however, is a subtraction of student space, rather than an addition. This is the kind of partitioning that takes away from the open atmosphere of ODY. A library is not meant to merely disseminate information; it is a meeting space and a place for students to work. In the extreme and unlikely scenario that the University is one day in the [not so distant] future completely partitioned into spaces with super-specific functions, it would no longer be a college; it would be merely a center for teaching and learning. “College is life in the whole, however, as well as study,” as former President Frank Piskor once said. We can have a CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING, but please, Master Planners, architects of the Temple of Knowledge, don’t turn this university into one.