Renne Library used to be seen as a space intended for silent bookworms or last-minute cramming, but not anymore. The past few years have seen positive changes, including the recent Library Commons renovation, that are making the library a more vibrant place for students.
The degree to which the first floor Commons renovation has changed the library’s atmosphere is notable. The renovation was largely cosmetic — new furniture, new equipment and group study rooms were added, as well as a $300,000 improvement of the Writing Center satellite location funded by ASMSU — yet the resulting change in usage by students has been palpable. More students are using the library, and they are beginning to use it in dynamic ways.
The Commons renovation was completed in the Fall of 2011. After the renovation, door counts increased from 758,954 in academic year 2010 to 839,157 in 2011 — a 10.6 percent increase in usage. That increase can be attributed in part, but not entirely, to a 5.6 percent increase in enrollment and the movement of the Creative Arts Library into Renne.
So far this year, door counts are even more encouraging, showing a 17.5 percent increase during the first five months of this academic year, according to Associate Dean of Libraries Brian Rossman. A survey last year found that nearly 72 percent of all students surveyed use the library at least once a week. The library has rapidly become a center for student collaboration and community, and library staff and administration deserve credit for this transition.
Perhaps more important than quantity is quality of the experience. According to the same survey, 25 percent of those surveyed rated their satisfaction level at “excellent,” and another 44 percent at “above average.” From our standpoint, it also seems that students are spending more time in the library than only a few years ago, particularly in group settings.
The improvements at Renne transcend the Commons renovation. Last fall, the library started keeping its doors open an additional two hours, until 2 a.m. It moved the ITC help desk into the Commons and offered new events, such as last November’s “Write Night,” which provided writing assistance to more than 50 students. The library is also active in social media, through @msulibrary and “Rocky G” (@RockyGallatini), Renne building’s hilarious twitter persona — a creative model for engaging students that other administrators should take note of.
Library administration is now analyzing recent changes in order to decide where to go next. It’s clear that the library has seen a lot of improvement, but now is the time to capitalize on current momentum.
A common complaint found in a recent library survey highlighted noise levels on the first floor. Others said the new computer distribution has made finding an open computer difficult.
The computer and noise complaints could be addressed by closing off the first floor group study rooms to create more quiet work space. As the first and second floors have been increasingly social (and therefore loud), library administration should focus improvement efforts towards the quiet spaces on the third and fourth floors, for students who seek longer and quieter work sessions.
Most importantly, library administration should continue to keep students in mind as it searches for creative ways to enhance this unique location for MSU’s campus community.