The Case for a New Library at NDSU
Education Should be Focus of Spending
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 16:09
As anyone who knows me already knows, I am a huge advocate for the building of a new library here at North Dakota State. I have written about it a number of times here at The Spectrum, and have been known to complain about the neglected condition of our current library.
As a student who not only frequents the library for studying, I also fulfill my work study grant as a student assistant at the circulation desk in the library. Between the two, I have come to know the ins and outs of the library about as well as any student on campus. Not only have I memorized the nooks and crannies of the building, but I know a good bit about how the library as a department operates, who operates it and the rather extraordinary extent of those who benefit from its operation.
I have written in the past that the library is failing at doing its job. Not the department – it somehow manages to get along alright, even with subpar housing – but the building itself. It is failing the students who study there, the workers who are employed there. It is not doing its job, not functioning as a library is supposed to function.
It does not provide a quality environment in which to foster productive student work. It does not provide efficient means for the department to operate. It is old, dilapidated, falling apart, ugly, smelly and altogether uncouth. It is a zit upon the face of the university, a zit that no amount of makeup (new bathrooms, ‘coffehouse’) can cover.
The university has recently taken steps to begin improving its core infrastructure – the buildings and spaces that are essential to the fostering of learning on campus. The renovation of Minard Hall (desperately needed) has finally been completed. Plans for a new STEM building have been approved. Sudro Hall is soon to undergo a facelift. All of these things are wonderful, as they bring our classrooms and research facilities into the 21st century.
However, the University is also pumping money into superficial fashion statements that serve no purpose other than attracting prospective students. Which, on the surface, might seem like a worthwhile investment, but actually boils down to nothing more than false advertising.
Think of an athlete who never works out anything but his upper body. The only weightlifting he does is for his arms, chest and shoulders, with never a thought to his abs, hips or legs. Watching such an athlete step onto the field, a coach might think ‘Hey, that guy looks like quite a player!’ and subsequently put him into the game, having high expectations.
That coach would soon be regretting his decision, however, when that athlete had no actual ability to play sports, because he had no core strength, his hips were poorly developed and he had no speed or quickness whatsoever. Like a Ferrari without an engine, that player was good to look at but otherwise absolutely worthless.
So too is a campus that has a multitude of superficial ‘glory’ features – an Aquatic Center, a newly-renovated food court, and a machine shed – or, if you prefer, arena – dedicated specifically to indoor track. Certainly these will be the high points on any student’s campus tour, but what purpose do they serve in the actual pursuit of a college degree? Once the student chooses NDSU, will they regret their decision because they chose a campus that ‘looked good’ rather than a campus that was strong at its educational core?
As such, NDSU’s greatest need for infrastructure investment comes in the form of a new library. With a building that serves as a central hub for studying, group collaboration, research and tutoring, NDSU could truly be billed as a student-focused, research university, and very much live up to its recent re-branding.
Aquatic centers are downright awesome places to have fun, food courts are great places for grabbing lunch with a friend and athletics are a huge income generator for the university, but when it comes down to it, North Dakota State is about providing a quality education to its students, not attempting to draw in ever-larger crowds of students in order to make more money. As a public university, our focus should be on educational output, not monetary input.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on Twitter @nwstottler.