Columns

Fatima Aqeel ’12: Life in the SciLi

By
Opinions Columnist
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Plenty of people start their academic career at Brown hating the SciLi, and not understanding the bold artistic ideas behind those unpainted walls and that depressing grey facade. But by the end of freshman year, it becomes a second home for most of us.

How does this transition take place? The truth is, the distinct feel and culture of the SciLi grows on you, and you start enjoying tiny things about this culture. For example, you love the whiff of warm coffee from the Friedman Study Center that greets you when you enter the lobby from the cold outside. Or you start to notice the small and unexpected prints on the walls of the basement, visible only from certain vantage points, and smile.

That said, however, there are also a few basic improvements that could be made to the library in order to facilitate good studying.

This week, as I sat on one of those quintessentially SciLi green couches, I started making a list of these few basic things:

1. Comfort. It’s essential for good studying that the study space be comfortable. On that note, the SciLi could be a lot warmer. I’m sure the student body would unanimously agree on this point, because I hear fellow students complain about it all the time.

As the days get colder, students leave their dorm rooms to study in the library, because the atmosphere is more conducive to studying. The purpose of going all the way to the library is defeated, however, when one hour into students’ work, after all their books and papers are spread out, they realize that they’re shivering and can’t study there anymore.
The cold temperature inside the SciLi could be a consequence of the way it has been constructed, with those large windows and concrete walls that can’t retain heat. It is understandable if warmth is difficult to maintain on the some of the higher floors, where it is naturally colder. But perhaps a few more heaters in the basement and the first few floors could easily tackle the chill there.

The top floors may remain colder, but the straight-backed, erect chairs don’t help. Perhaps these could be replaced by padded chairs that stay warmer, because these will not destroy the environment, and will also not cause pain to posterior regions of a student’s anatomy.  

2. The bathrooms. There should be at least one more bathroom for each sex in the basement. At the very least there should be a couple of more stalls in each bathroom that currently exists in the basement.

Unlike the more remote floors in the SciLi or the Rock where one bathroom and one stall is sufficient, the SciLi basement is crowded enough for there to be more than one person needing to use the bathroom at the same time. Frequently, there is a line of people waiting to use the bathroom. Sometimes people abandon the line and take the elevator to use bathrooms on other floors, which, admittedly, is pretty funny, unless you’re the one doing the running around.

The bathrooms could also be in a better condition. Anyone who has attempted using the women’s bathroom in the basement knows what I mean when I say that. You go in to wash your hands, and come out looking like you’ve taken a shower with your clothes on. This is because, more often than not, the sink leaks and wets everything near it, and just to reach that sink you’ve had to step on a small puddle of water anyway. Apart from being awkward, this makes the bathroom look plain messy. The bathroom in the Mezz is of a similarly poor condition, although the ones on the upper floors are all right, probably because they are used less often.

3. Convenience. That nobody wakes up early in the morning or stays up late on weekends to study is a gross generalization. Plenty of people get an early start to their studying on weekends, or decide to do homework on a Saturday night instead of going out, because these may be times when they are most productive.

Therefore, the SciLi, or at least its basement, should be open for longer on weekends. For example, on Saturdays the library is open only from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. In fact, all libraries across campus are closed before 10:00 a.m. and after 10:00 p.m. too. This only gives the SciLi, which is the most centrally located library, further reason to be open.

Moreover, the shifts of people who work at the Help Desk in the basement should be organized such that there is an attendant there whenever the basement is open. People should not have to wait an hour before they get technical assistance for a small task like printing or scanning.

Most of these improvements don’t require a large expenditure at all. True, the SciLi will probably remain an important part of a student’s life with or without these changes, but, if made, they can significantly contribute to students’ productivity in this library.


Fatima Aqeel ’12 is an economics concentrator from Karachi, Pakistan. She can be reached at fatima_aqeel (at) brown.edu.