NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Library construction is ongoing

By Carly Columbo, Correspondent

“Improvements can be noisy … we appreciate your patience as we try to make the library better,” says the sign that stands before the entrance of Northern Essex’s Bentley Library on Haverhill Campus. Inside, just eight computers stand in the library along with four tables directly behind them followed by bookshelves. There is also a computer lab housing around 20 or so computers. The Bentley Library is currently one floor, but in 2016, a second level will be added for students. The library is a vital resource for students, and the improvements being made should attract more students and provide more space and support.

“Right now, the library, study spaces and computers are all on one level,” says NECC student Thomas Matatall. “It can be a bit hectic. Sometimes I can’t even stay in there for too long because between the students chatting at the tables behind me and heavy traffic of students, it’s hard to focus on my work. This will give more space to the students.”

Many students find themselves having a hard time finding a seat at times when the library is more crowded.  Reference Librarian Susan Leonardi hopes the renovations will make the Library a more accessible resource for students. The floor plan for upstairs revealed an elaborate and spacious layout for students. There’s a reference desk similar to the one on the first floor when you first enter followed by a computer space housing 60 computers along with a computer lab. There will also be added meeting spaces, desks, study areas, administrative offices and a library classroom that can seat up to 30 students. Along with the work spaces, there will also be a lounge-like area with tables and couches where students can chat, relax and unwind between classes.

“We’ve downsized the physical book selection that was upstairs and moved all our books downstairs,” says Leonardi. The plan is to separate the library from the work space. The first floor will be devoted to physical books and the second floor will be strictly for studying, tutoring and working. The current computer lab will be turned into a “swing space” that can be used as a classroom when renovations are being made to the Spurk building and additional classroom space is needed. 

The IT department will also be moved inside the library so students no longer have to travel to the B building for additional tech support.

“The students will be able to access the library resources and IT help from one central location on campus,” says Leonardi.

“Now we will be able to direct students upstairs instead of over to the next building for additional support with blackboard and other IT questions they may have,” says Librarian Gail Stuart, who is head of reference services at Bentley Library.

Will this help students utilize the library to its best ability? Absolutely.

“An interesting fact to me is we have about 400 people come in and out every day, and most of them are students. I think with the addition of the computer lab the daily traffic will double,” says Stuart. “So far we’ve had 1,271 reference interactions, and 92 percent are from students,” Stuart explains, as she monitors all electronic questions sent to reference each semester. “The numbers can only go up with these improvements being made. Students will be aware of the resources when walking past the lab and it should bring in more of them.”

Along with the additional space, comes additional assistance. There will be more staff on duty to provide additional support to students.

“An additional librarian that specializes in IT and Blackboard will be on duty so more students can seek additional help with not only reference, but questions regarding Blackboard as well,” explains Stuart. “He or she will know a lot more about Blackboard than I would,” Stuart chuckles.

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