LEAP Day in the library – you say, we listen

Library staff (left to right) Wen Zhao, Katie King, Joshua Achipa and Daniel Chesney pose for a picture. (Photo provided by Katie King)

By Katie King, Library Director

Some of you may be wondering what purpose LEAP Day serves, and why SNU has a whole day devoted to it.

If that’s you, keep reading. If that’s not you, keep reading anyways to see how the Library responds to student feedback.

Essentially, LEAP Day is a day where all academic departments have space to ask themselves and you, the students, some important questions, including the following:

What is it you need to learn in order to participate in the field of [fill in your major here]?

In which ways does this department do a good job of helping you learn this subject?

In which areas could this department improve your learning (and professors’ teaching)?

This year, for the first time, the SNU Library decided to participate in LEAP Day by asking you similar questions about Library services, staff, and space because we want to know how we’re serving your needs well, as well as what we can improve.

We asked department chairs to send us anyone their departments weren’t assessing, and the department chairs responded (thank you!) by sending the Library forty-two of your peers.

So, here’s what we did: around Panera bagels and coffee, the library team chatted with some of you about the library. We broke you up into groups, and, as we moved around the library together, we asked you questions like:

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘library’ or ‘librarian?’

How do you start research, and what do you do when you get stuck?

Have you had any experiences with student workers or staff? If so, what were those experiences like?

Does our division of regular and quiet study space on the first and second floors work for your study habits?

Have you used the SNU Archives before, and, if so, what did you use it for?

When you look at the furniture in this section of the library, does it meet your needs? How would you rearrange this section of the library if you could?

As we asked those questions and others, we learned that we do some things really well.

For example, we reaffirmed that we have great people in the library who care about your information needs, who serve you well, and who will take the time to work through problems with you so you get what you need to be successful students.

We also learned that we divide, arrange, and care for our space well. Some of you really appreciate having room to talk and work in groups while others really enjoy working alone in a quiet area. Either way, we’re happy to be able to offer good space for both those needs in the library.

Finally, we learned that we’re a flexible and functional space that you want to use for almost everything – you study, you research, you socialize, you print and share, you ask great questions, you browse the Internet, you connect, you do life. We’re honored to say you do all those things here, in the library.

We also learned that there are some things we need to change so we can better accommodate your needs. For example, many of you mentioned that there aren’t enough accessible outlets in the building, which is true. It’s hard to do sustained work on a paper or assignment when you can’t charge your laptop or cell phone, and it’s frustrating when all the tables near wall outlets are taken, making it difficult and awkward to find a plug.

Sample study carrel. (Photo from Katie King, Library Director)

We get it, which is why we ordered retractable extension cords you can use to charge your devices from any table in the library. Those are installed, and you can find those in each section of the library and on each floor (just look for large yellow wheels and cord ends that say “Pull me”).

Next, we learned that those of you who use our individual study carrels on the second (silent) floor found them loud and uncomfortable. So we investigated them and found that those desks had been around for quite some time (so long, in fact, that their lovely shade of mint is now back in style).

We sat down in them and found that yes, they were both uncomfortable and loud, and we also discovered that some of those desks were extremely unstable after years (nay, decades) of use.

So we replaced them. Six study carrels feature comfy yet studious chairs. We added lap desks and a side table so you can sit down and still have your laptop and other books and articles handy; we also added coasters for your drinks and lamps in the spaces without natural light.

In the other five carrels, we added sturdy desks and rolling desk chairs (some of those have yet to come in as of April 5). We’ll be adding coasters and lamps to those rooms, too, and all eleven rooms will eventually feature fun artwork so those rooms don’t feel so empty, bare and uninspired.

You also gave us feedback about the differences in library hours and space. Some of you told us that, while you appreciate the quiet study space on the second floor, you were dismayed that the second floor closed at 11pm while the remainder of the library closed at midnight, which meant that those of you who need quiet study space had to go elsewhere for quiet space between 11pm and 12am.

We heard you, and we agreed that it was unfair. So the second floor is now open until midnight, too.

Finally, many of you asked about how late the library was going to be open during finals week and the week before that. You expressed a desire for the library to stay open later so you could achieve more without having to go to Ihop or another place off-campus with later hours.

We hear you, and we understand. So this year, we’re trying something new. We’re going to be open until 1am for both finals week and the week before.

We’re taking a risk – we know that large groups of people who are running on precious little sleep (if any), a lot of caffeine and late-night carbs, and who are under pressure don’t necessarily make good decisions, but we’re betting that you all will make us proud.

I hope you can see how the library’s participation in LEAP Day illustrates that we care about your feedback.

We plan on regularly asking you all these questions and others, and we hope you’ll keep talking to us and giving us your affirmations, ideas, improvements, and suggestions so we can continue to ensure the library is somewhere you want to be.