If you are prone to living in the library then you’ve probably noticed that the sofas that once occupied it’s ground floor have disappeared this year. Students Laura Navalta and Clare Calvert did.
Upon their return from their summer break the girls noticed the lack of sofas and decided to do something about it.
Both made formal complaints to the library staff, explaining why they felt that the sofas had improved their University library experience.
The response they received from a member of the library staff was that the removal of the sofas had been due to the noise that the library desk felt was “getting out of hand,” preventing them from hearing those they were trying to help and doing their job.
The sofa areas, seen as social meet up locations, were said to contribute substantially to the noise problem.
While the girls were told that the removal was a temporary experiment, there was no date given as to when the experiment would be concluded. This led them to take action and create a change.org petition to send to the library staff.
As of 8 October the petition had 347 signatures out of the target 500.
This would indicate that Ms Navalta and Ms Calvert have considerable support for their movement.
While they understand that the sofas may be seen as disruptive, they feel that the noise is actually decreased overall because of them.
The University, in response to being asked about the petition has said, “We’re aware of some students’ views on the decision we recently took to relocate the sofas which were previously on the main concourse. Some comments have been received through our “You Said We Did” feedback cards, all of which we reply to publicly (http:// libanswers.st-andrews.ac.uk/). We have also had some comments on our recent feedback wall from other students saying that they prefer the new arrangement.
“The sofas have actually not been taken away (also, they are grey and red, rather than green, in case people have been looking for green sofas).
“We’ve simply relocated most of them to the other side of the blue chair area on level 2 although one sofa has been removed due to it being damaged.”
Supporters of the petition took to using the online tag “#justiceforoursofas.”
“When the Library was refurbished in 2011, we put these sofas on the concourse with the intention that they would be used as transitional seating – i.e. that students would use them for short periods of time when they were waiting for someone, taking a short break etc.
“We deliberately designed level 2 to be more relaxed and, prior to the refurbishment we had already revised our rules on noise, mobile phones, and food & drink so this type of furniture fitted well with this approach.”
Student Jack Nevin said, “The couches provided a great communal space which was useful for making phone calls or non-academic interactions.
“Without this space, I believe that the noise levels in the library will rise rather than fulfill the intention of lowering the volume of noise on the first floor.”
The spokesperson continued, “However, since then the library is busier than ever and this area in particular has become very congested given that it is relatively narrow. It has also become increasingly noisy to the extent that the sound is negatively impacting on other areas. If we had more room in the building, it would be easier to accommodate the noisier , more relaxed seating area in the way that students clearly wish to use it.”
Ms Navalata urged others to sign the petition, “Help us convince [the University library] that this silly little petition actually has some merit to it and that students are taking a stance against this injustice.”
The University spokesperson also asserted that the change would not be permanent, “We’d like to keep things as they are until at least Independent Learning Week, at which point we’ll take stock.
“It may be that we put the sofas back or we may decide to keep them in their new location.
“It may also be that we think about other options – e.g. introducing “acoustic sofas” which would allow for the type of relaxed seating students wish to see in this area but which are designed to contain noise.”
“The University recognises the need for more space in the Main Library and does have plans to add more study seats by redeveloping Level 1 (the sub-basement), currently occupied by our general collections store and some staff accommodation. Work on creating these extra student spaces will start when new storage and staff accommodation at the Eden Campus is completed. During the next phase of redevelopment, around 350 extra study seats will be created along with increased toilet provision (including gender neutral toilets), more group study rooms and an expanded café space.”