Aging library infrastructure causes community dissent
By Hailey Hensley
After a summer of multi-million dollar renovations throughout campus, one building stands alone as a relic of Rider’s early history in Lawrenceville.
According to Robert Congleton, an associate professor and librarian at the Franklin F. Moore Library, the library was built over 50 years ago in 1964 and was one of the earliest buildings to spring up on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.
Despite how early the library was built, according to Congleton, when one looks at pictures of the library when it was first constructed and compare it to the building today, there are not many differences.
“You won’t really recognize any major changes,” he said. “It all looks about the same except for the vegetation around the building.”
According to Congleton, very few renovations have enhanced the library since its dedication in 1964. Several members of the Rider community have recently spoken out about some improvements they feel are necessary for the building.
“A lot of the windows leak and the leaks don’t even happen from the window sills. The leaks actually come from the walls,” said Moore Library Office Assistant Jacob Hughes. “All the water seeping into the building leads to a much larger issue. If there’s one thing books and periodicals don’t like, it’s humidity. Books don’t do well in humidity.”
The leaky windows, roof and walls are only a few of the issues causing concern for members of the library community.
“The air conditioning and heating are all over the place. There are some days where you come inside the building and it’s 80 degrees,” Hughes said. “Other days you come in and it can be like 50 degrees in here. It never feels predictable. Which, again, is not too great for the books we have.”
For library patrons and employees requiring special services and assistance, accessibility can be tricky, according to Office Specialist Coleen Carr.
“In the wintertime, water runs off the roof of the building, and the water pools on the patio, right where the handicap accessible ramp starts,” said Carr. “It’s like a skating rink in the winter. How are you supposed to take a wheelchair or a walker down there?” said Carr.
The ramp isn’t the only issue with handicap accessibility though, reported Carr. “The elevator is old. And you can be on it, and hear a noise, and in your head, you go ‘Get me off, get me off!’ and you start to think ‘It’s going to stop,’ and then it does. I’ve been trapped in there, other people have been trapped in there, it’s really scary,” Carr said.
The overall state of the building has caused a lot of grief for junior musical theater major and community assistant, Tessa Douglas.
“I don’t find it very welcoming. I like studying there [the library], once I sit inside and start working, but it takes a lot for me to study in a place that feels like it’s falling apart,” said Douglas.
As a community assistant, Douglas said she frequently recommends her residents take advantage of the multitude of resources available at the library.
“If they need sheet music, even if we don’t have it here I tell them they can request it through interlibrary loan. I say they should never buy a play or score because its all available through the library,” reported Douglas.
However, Hughes fears that the issues with the building itself may limit patrons’ abilities to utilize the many resources available at the library. “This does not feel like a modern library. It needs to be more accessible, not only to handicapped patrons but to all our patrons. We have a handful of large tables, but it’s not quite enough. We also need more air-conditioned study room space. More areas for students to work collaboratively. All of it” he said.
“I don’t think they [Rider administration] value us as much as we should be valued, or we would look a lot different,” said Carr. “We garbage-picked for the furniture. A lot of it is from somewhere else. We got our desks from Seton Hall after they were done with them. Some of the chairs we bought ourselves, but all the really big stuff was given to us secondhand.”
A theme of ignored and repeatedly patched up problems seems to permeate through the library’s long history, according to library staff members. Hughes wanted to make clear though, that in spite of the decaying infrastructure, the faculty and staff bring heart and soul to the library.
“Everybody is so dedicated to what they do and so engaged with what they do,” Hughes said. “I wish more students would use our librarians as resources because they get so excited to help out. Or even coming to us at the Circulation Desk. It’s corny, but we really genuinely like to help people and I think we’re all pretty dang good at it.”