This term, students walking through the library have been met with a jarring sight: Usually bustling with energy, First Floor Berry has been a ghost town. The space, which has been closed since the start of the winter in response to low mask compliance during the fall, is slated to remain closed until the indoor mask mandate is lifted. This measure, however, has shown itself to be utterly ineffective. Without access to a key group study space, students looking to hit the books have simply moved to less supervised areas of the library, leading to overcrowding and, if anything, aggravating the problem of mask non-compliance.
It is hard to imagine that closing FFB — located directly across from the circulation desk and, thus, its staff — and forcing students to study in other spaces such as the Stacks, the Tower Room or the upper levels of Berry — all locations where there are no library staff in sight — will persuade students to follow the indoor mask mandate. In fact, all one must do to realize the ineffectiveness of this closure is walk through the other spaces in the library: Maskless students, free from the supervision of library staff, abound.
The failures of this policy should come as no surprise. Closing FFB as a punishment for low mask compliance is akin to closing the gym because too many students were stealing dishware from the dining halls; the problem and the response don’t match up. While it is unclear what policy, if any, will encourage students to comply with the indoor mask mandate outside of classrooms, it is wholly irrational to think that closing a singular study space in the library without any coherent reasoning or criteria for its reopening would do the trick.
The closure of FFB — one of the few group study spaces on this campus — has also negatively affected the utility of other spaces in the library that are intended to be silent. For example, the Orozco Mural Room in the basement of Baker, typically a silent study area, now sees Zoom calls and conversations on the regular. The third floor of Berry and the Stacks, also traditionally strictly quiet spaces, have seen similar issues.
While students disregarding the typical noise level of these spaces is a nuisance, it isn’t entirely surprising. FFB has a lot of fans who seek it out specifically because they don’t intend to study in silence. When that space is gone and the other noisy study spaces, such as Novack Cafe or the lobby of Baker Library, cannot accommodate the increase in students wanting to study there, it only follows that other spaces in the library have become noisier. It’s a supply and demand issue — a concept that the College seems to struggle with on the dining and housing fronts as well.
While we, as a Board, have yet to come to a common opinion on whether or not the mask mandate should be lifted, we are all sympathetic to the concerns of some library staff. With that said, we ardently disagree with the sentiment that closing FFB is an effective means of addressing the issue. At most, the closure has sowed discontent among students who enjoy the other spaces in the library and pushed the problem of low mask compliance out of sight. While we understand that closing FFB may have seemed like an effective punishment in some administrator’s mind, the experiment has failed. It’s time to admit it and reopen FFB.
The editorial board consists of opinion staff columnists, the opinion editors, the executive editors and the editor-in-chief.
Opinion editor and Editorial Board member Natalie Dokken is a student assistant, student manager and research assistant for Baker-Berry Library.
Editorial Board member Spencer Allen, a student manager in Baker-Berry Library, was not involved in the production of this editorial.