Disruption and dismay at the Webster Library

Students studying, among other things, in the Webster Library. Photo by Charles Procee

Looking at the newly renovated library and how it strays from tradition

As I sit in the Iceland Room of LB-5, I am immersed in what can only be described as textbook irrationality and self-absorption.

The fifth floor of the Webster Library opened on March 3. This was a welcome addition as the newly added floor will be a part of an additional 1850 study spaces, according to Concordia’s website. For me, the Dissertation Writer’s room (of which the Iceland room is a part of), is the highlight of the renovations. The name itself eludes to the tranquility promised to lie within. However, beneath the veneer of floor to ceiling windows, wood panelling, and modernist design, rests an old problem: confusion about what a library really is.

Returning to the Iceland room, I am still steeped in frustration. To my left, a man is eating a sandwich from Tim Hortons, complete with that obnoxious crinkly paper wrap, which is astonishingly louder than usual. However, he must be very jealous of the two women with a full Middle Eastern spread: complete with hummus, pita bread, and olives. To my right, an astute individual offers relationship advice to a friend on his cellphone. Across the room, a group of people are gathered around a laptop streaming a Habs game. Am I the only one reading in this room? Is this not the scholarly sanctuary that was promised?

I decide to look for more peaceful surroundings. While leaving the room, I shake my head at the boycott signs on the door indicating no food and that this is a silent space. Moving through the common area I am struck by the dull roar of chatter, laughter, and… is that Drake?

Students almost always bring the noise level back up when the monitor leaves, said Mark Bysterveldt, access services supervisor at the Webster Library. “After dealing with it a few times, you start to feel like Sisyphus,” he said. Not wanting to push rocks up a hill all night, I decide to go outside for a breather.

As I step out onto Rue Mackay, I wonder, What’s going on?, Is this how my generation understands the concept of a library? I look up and see the slogan for the new library: “At Concordia, we are inventing the library of tomorrow,” a sign reads, in French. Then it hit me.

The people behind the Webster transformation are geniuses! They are not just creating any old library, rather it is an institution with a 21st-century vision. Bysterveldt said the Webster no longer ‘feels’ like a library, saying the trend toward collaborative spaces dilutes “the older image of a solace for personal study.” He is exactly right.

Quiet and silent study areas: a suggestion more than a rule. No food: a recommendation at most. Sound proof study rooms, how about a private cocktail lounge? The future is flexibility!

Mixed use building design is a very popular trend among interior designers. This is a perfect way to address Concordia’s need for both increased study and common areas while at the same time observing the strict budget compressions.

I smile to myself. As a master’s student, I am on my way out of university life. But I am excited for what the future holds for my younger colleagues. No longer will they be burdened with archaic and idealistic concepts of the library of the past. Bring your lunch, bring your cell phone, bring your friends, hell, bring your family. Concordia is building the library of the future. Put down that dusty old tome and grab a cocktail. This ain’t your grandpappy’s library!

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