As we enter the last month of fall semester classes, students will inevitably hunker down in the library while they prepare for exams and frantically type out papers. Typically, The News-Letter reminds students to leave the library and enjoy the sunlight; we tell students to prioritize their mental health and take breaks from continuous studying. Although that still holds true, we would like to highlight the importance of the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) library to this campus and its students.
The University’s MSE Modernization Project will involve closing MSE down for an estimated two and a half years, beginning in summer 2024. Although talks of MSE’s renovation are not new, the start of this project is approaching rapidly, and students are anxious about finding alternative study spaces on campus.
Johns Hopkins Facilities and Real Estate outlines when the construction will begin but provides little information on whether or not MSE will be accessible during the renovation period. The website states, "The project team is investigating alternative spaces on the Homewood campus to provide essential library services and a very small on-site collection. At this point there is no final plan."
The lack of forethought regarding alternative study spaces poses a concern for students who depend on the library as a quiet place to prepare for classes and exams. The University emphasizes that one of the major reasons for the renovation is that, currently, MSE does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed after its construction. The News-Letter supports these efforts to make the library more inclusive and accessible.
However, we are concerned that while the summer 2024 start date looms ever nearer, there has been no alternative study space created or announced by the administration. The News-Letter contacted Sheridan Libraries regarding a plan for alternate study spaces, and no new locations were provided.
Although the library will be closed, the adjoining Brody Learning Commons will remain open. Brody, which is relatively new and modern, is widely used by Hopkins affiliates. However, the seating options are very limited between the study rooms, the reading room, the atrium and the cafe area.
Activity on student social media, such as Sidechat, has revealed that students are worried about where they will go when the library closes. Users have jokingly speculated that the renovation is a ploy to bring back the Freshman Annex, a temporary tent structure on the Freshman Quad during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On-campus housing furnishes rooms with personal desks, but studying in the dorms may not be a viable option. Underclassmen, who are required to share rooms during their first year and potentially during their second year, deal with noisy roommates, dirty dishes and other distractions. This is not conducive to a productive study environment. Research has highlighted the importance of quiet spaces for concentration, learning and memorization. The few study lounges that the dorms provide are not enough to accommodate the hundreds of residents who will need quiet spaces when MSE closes.
Many Blue Jays had hoped that the Student Center would provide study spaces, but with its delayed opening, students will not only lose the space provided by MSE but will also be unable to count on the new Center as a study location.
Some students who are disappointed about MSE’s impending closure have pointed to the University placing a bigger price tag on fewer resources. In the past decade, Hopkins tuition has increased by more than $15,000. It will be unfair to students if Hopkins continues this pattern and increases tuition next year, given the drastically reduced work and socialization spaces available on campus.
The University has been holding engagement sessions regarding the renovation of the library since the fall of 2021 and had initially planned to begin construction in spring of 2023. For there still to be no final plan on replacements for MSE is unacceptable and indicates a failure of administration to understand how disruptive a library closure will be for students.
At a school like Hopkins, where many students prioritize studying above all else, the absence of a library is a serious concern. We may not be proud of our habits of studying around the clock or spending more time on C-level than in bed, but these are facts of life for many Hopkins students. Hopkins cultivates an environment that breeds extreme academic ambition yet is taking away (and not replacing) a resource that allows students to be academically successful.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of construction on campus, including the creation of the Imagine Center and the upgrades to the Rec Center. Early next year, the new Stavros Nicholas Foundation Agora Building will be completed and open on campus.
Don’t let these shiny additions distract you; a library is crucial for students on a college campus. The University must not forget its responsibility to provide students with an environment conducive to learning. Hopkins must come up with an alternative study space that meets the needs that MSE currently fulfills.
When the University is considering implementing solutions, we urge them not to make the same mistakes as with previous temporary structures, which were eyesores, yes, but also a waste of resources and seldom used. Learn from the past, Hopkins. Please don’t give us another Freshman Annex.