The Library: A Critical Review

“The Library: A Critical Review”

Law Street Journal Article (November ’89)

By Randol Schoenberg

“The library is like a like a rat’s maze,” Chris O’Brien announced, “but I can’t find the cheese!” Similar comments were heard throughout the Law Center as students explored the long anticipated new wing of the library. “I feel like Theseus in the Labyrinth trying to find the Minotaur,” suggested Greg McCambridge.

The opening was not as smooth as some had hoped, but no one complained too loudly for fear that they would close it up again. Students look to the positive. The new carpet, an industrial dark grey (light grey in some places) with splotches of blue, white, yellow and red, receive the most notice. The carpeting is great,” said Don Morrissey, “best I’ve seen in a library!”

Karen Feld was also full of praise for the new library, “I love it. There’s the beautiful new carpet. It’s well organized and I like the design, although it’s kind of hard to find the exit once in a while.”

One would expect confusion when students are asked to find their way around the new facility. The problems are compounded by the temporary entrance, which is designed as an emergency fire escape. The path to the library is disorienting, entailing a short walk outside the law center building the helpful arrows and red ribbons can’t disguise the awkwardness. “I feel like I’m walking in the back door,” stated Phil Kohler upon passing through the entrance conspicuously marked ‘law library’.

Once inside, patients confront a naked hallway which must be navigated correctly in order to reach the first book. Even the library staffer manning the desk at the entrance admits she can’t find her way around. She’s not alone. An exasperated Maggie Wolfe, formerly a professional librarian, exclaims sardonically, “I am utterly speechless with the beauty and integrity of the planning. I know there’s got to be a book in here somewhere!”

As for the design, it fails to impress the architect broke no new ground with this addition. The concrete outer façade is hardly distinguishable from an army bunker, only partly embellished with a curve here or there and a glass entrance which invokes the stark simplicity of the Bauhaus but without the panache. Inside, the space is functional if not inspiring. Carrels line the glass walls of the library, with those on the northern side featuring a nice view down to Town and Gown. The southern side promises the most sun, and the third floor study area at the top of the stairs is already a popular hangout. The restrooms on the second floor are spacious and well-lit, perfect for ‘throne’ reading. With a small desk, the handicapped stall would make a nice carrel. However, the new ‘push-on’ faucets are pretty awful. And why is one sink in the Men’s room raised so high that the faucet nearly touches the paper towel ledge?

The photocopy room is nice and well-placed. The new copiers are fast and high-quality. John Douglas agrees, “The new copiers are delightful. I don’t have to go to Southwestern anymore.” But he pointed out that the new machines don’t have the capability to reduce or enlarge. Reduction can make copying books much more economical because it allows pages to be copied two at a time. There are three copiers in the new room with space for two more. An additional machine is located by the reference desk.

The third floor is made for adventure. The door from the stairway is heavy and makes a loud sound when it shuts, announcing your entrance to all the inhabitants. The compact shelves look as inviting as the passage between Scylla and Charybdis. Red lights indicate when the safety sweep is in order (or not in order?), and every five seconds, something beeps. Apparently, the flap at the bottom of the shelves (the safety sweep) will stop the aisles from moving if they come up against something or someone, but who will volunteer to test it?

The computer lab was moved without too much difficulty, but only 6 of 8 IBM terminals are currently operational. The new computers for the new lab have arrived already but because of space restrictions, hardware and security complications, these computers will sit idle in storage until the entire library is completed. Too bad.

Vice Dean Jerry Wiley has said that the next order of business is the student lounge area in the basement. New lockers should be installed any day now, but the kitchen is causing the most problems. The Life Safety Inspector—the same guy who delayed the opening of the library for two months—has objected to the design of the new kitchen, which is positioned in the middle of the lounge area. No estimate is available for when the lounge will be operational.

Wiley, who is supervising the construction project from the Law Center, was peppered with questions during a ‘Construction Forum’ on Thursday, October 19. Most of the problems, according to Wiley, are the fault of University administration and not the fault of anyone in the Law Center,” Wiley explained. “We never got to see the contract before it was signed. The USC vice president wrote and approved the contract without even showing it to us,” said Wiley, noting also that there were a few people in the Law Center who have experience with contracts.

The Administration continues to be optimistic about the completion date of the project, however. The faculty lounge is scheduled to be the final project. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for March 1990.


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