If you happen to walk along the glass-walled corridor beside the library in between the Middle school and High school, you may be in for a surprise. As students peer in, they see the once overly vibrant and jam-packed library now nearly empty, and they wonder what could have possibly happened over summer break.
The changes themselves may not be clear, so here is a brief recap. This semester, 4 study zones were implemented in the library. Zone A and B are designed to be used for quiet studying or reading, Zone C is to be used for classroom learning, and Zone D is to be used for printing and/or display of current news. Zone C, the previously most used space in the library, is now off limits to students that are not part of a scheduled classroom visit.
One of the other changes that has been implemented is the card-checking system. During lunch hours, students are required to have their student ID card with them in order to enter the library. After depositing the card at the front door, students can attain their ID cards again only when they leave the library. If students don’t have an ID card with them though, then they cannot enter the library during lunch hours.
The new policy changes in the library have become a highly divisive topic among the student populace. From a poll that surveyed 40 high school students, 32.4% of students said that they thought highly of the new designated study zones, while 21.6% of students said that they highly disagreed with the new regimented space. An issue of further contention was the new card-checking system at lunch time, as 59.4% thought it had considerably declined the quality of the library.
“The library used to be a good place to work but now the librarians have limited the space that we could work in such as the tables located in the middle of the library. This just makes the given study zone crowded making it louder and harder to concentrate.” — Anonymous
“I think [the library] improved, because the changes in the environment has made it more approachable – I’m a freshman, and my friends and I go there every autonomous block to study.” — Anonymous
“In some aspects [the library improved]. However, I think the ID card checking took it a step too far. I don’t feel welcome at the library. I would rather spend my time in the Learning Lounge or just any other place that is not the library.” — Anonymous
In order to better understand why the new changes were implemented, I sat down with Ms Green, the KIS librarian, to talk about the school’s motives for the changes. Whenever I asked her about why the policies and facilities in the library had changed, Ms Green had one consistent theme to her responses: to better serve the students. Students in the past had come to the library in order to study, but when they came, they were often barraged by loud noises and distractions. The library became like any other studying environment in the school. In order to let students get the best out of their library usage time, Ms Green said that she wanted to filter out the purpose of the library. That means using the library for one of 4 reasons: getting help from a librarian, accessing library resources, quiet studying, and printing. If the library is not used for those purposes, then it no longer maintains the qualities that make up and define a library. Thus, it seems like collaborative work spaces in the library will no longer be condoned.
When I asked Ms Green about whether the policy changes had improved the quality of the library, she responded with a resounding “yes”. She said that although the physical number of students using the library had decreased, the proper usage of the library had increased. One evidence for this was the increased number of book check outs compared to previous semesters. By filtering the purpose of the library, more students at KIS will be able to get more out of their library experience.
One of the problems that the library has yet to truly tackle is the accessibility of the library, as well as public opinion on library usage. When I asked Ms Green about the new seating arrangements, she reassured me that no seats had been taken away, and that the library had placed the same number of seats in Zone A that had been in Zone C. However, despite this reassurance, library usages have decreased, and systems like card-checking during lunch hours have been implemented. Of course, the card-checking system is only in place during lunch hours; autonomous blocks, as well as before and after school hours do not use the card-checking system. But it goes beyond leniency with card-checking. Many students feel that it is the message that the library sends which is the problem. By implementing stricter rules, students feel that they are not welcome at the library, and they don’t wish to be subject to constant overseeing while they work.
Ultimately, it is a problem that students and the library have to find mutual ground on. Many students admitted that the library had become too loud, with one anonymous survey respondent writing “the library is usually in a similar level of noise to the cafeteria”. However, the library should also be aware of the actual number of students using the library, and should accordingly make changes in order to not only cater to the purpose of a library, but also to the students’ desires to use it as well, thus letting it actually do the service it was meant to do.
Featured Image & Photos by Ye Chan Song