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Editorial: John Hay well worth it

The shape of campus undoubtedly influences the character of the student experience. We applaud the work of the University in renovating the John Hay Library, an effort that visibly enhances the vibrancy of academic life on campus. We contend — and many students will agree — that the addition of a more accessible reading room helps distribute the burden on the traditional study locations, like the Rockefeller Library and the Sciences Library, and provides both an inspiring and historically profound space for scholarly work.

The Hay also presents a unique opportunity for students in the collections it holds. Other common study spaces such as the basement of the Rock and the Friedman Study Center are largely isolated from the source material they house. While the University recently relocated much of the Hay’s archival material to Cranston, the library showcases an intriguing selection of primary sources and artifacts, allowing students to engage with original, and often invaluable, objects. This concerted effort to provide students with a heightened level of accessibility — with regard to both space and resources — is incredibly refreshing and should be mirrored across the University, though we indeed understand the current financial constraints.

In echoing the underlying sentiment of Monday’s editorial, (“Ra ra Brunonia?”, Sept. 8, 2014), the University must continue to bolster and perpetuate a sense of tradition, and the rehabilitation and improvement of historical spaces on campus is an important component of this endeavor. The renovation of the Hay was justified not only for the building’s historical significance but also because the enhanced 4,400 square foot reading room redirects students away from contemporary dormitories and study spaces into a building more steeped in Brown’s history. The implications of this renovation transcend the monetary value of the building. Efforts to further engage students with the history of the campus, particularly where multi-million dollar renovations are not necessary, should be a priority going forward. Our campus is not without historical buildings like the John Carter Brown Library and the Ladd Observatory, which was recently nominated to be a local historical landmark, that the University should seek to better incorporate into students’ academics and daily lives.

The University is faced with the constant challenge of using College Hill effectively and keeping up heavily trafficked buildings as they age. The renovation of the John Hay Library is an efficient and lasting victory in this fight.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to


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