While peer schools like Colby are moving large portions of their library collections to storage facilities, Bowdoin’s libraries are undergoing minor reconfigurations under the leadership of new Director of the Bowdoin College Library Marjorie Hassen.

Over the past semester, the Abramson Room on the sixth floor of Hubbard Hall was painted, carrels and rugs were cleaned, and new chairs and furniture were added to the space. 

In Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, one of the long shelves in the reference area was removed, making room for the addition of four bean bag chairs. Hassen said that the library is considering creating space for long tables for collaborative work as well. 

A discussion about the need for more lab space—through possible renovations of Druckenmiller Hall and Hatch Science Library—also has implications for the collection. Librarians held open sessions for faculty in the science departments this fall to discuss their use of library space. 

“How their students use the space is also important as we start to think about renovations that will likely happen at some point in the future that will likely require us to move some books around and maybe move some things out,” said Hassen. 

By buying electronic versions of parts of the collection, the library has been able to move out some print collections in order to make more space. These print materials are kept at an off-site facility. However, the College has full access to any materials that were removed from the library. 

“We are pretty much at capacity. As new things come in we need space,” said Hassen. “How do we manage in our current environment with both keeping our collections and building our collections to meet the needs of teaching and scholarship and also the physical space?”

“For some departments, print might be the best way to deliver material, for some electronic is better,” Hassen said. “This has always been the case with the library: being proactive, talking with faculty and students way in advance of whatever may be planned so that we are thinking about how to meet everybody’s needs.”

Library renovations have been a contentious issue at peer schools in recent months. Colby College and Barnard College have both faced recent controversies regarding extensive renovations that affected their collections.

An $8.7 million renovation to Colby’s Miller Library was completed this fall. Intended to create additional study spaces, the renovation also included the building of a large off-site storage facility where some of Miller Library’s collection was deposited. 

Last spring, in response to the renovations, 76 faculty members signed a petition urging the administration to halt the continuing renovations to the library. 

“The renovations have been hurried, poorly thought-out, damaging to the mission of the College and conducted with inadequate faculty input,” faculty members said in an open letter published in the Colby Echo.

“The presence of books is highly relevant to faculty and students in certain disciplines,” wrote Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Colby History Department Raffael Scheck in an email to the Orient. “Colby is discussing ways of resolving the crisis caused by the library renovations through an expanded library committee.

“For a strong minority of faculty, especially in the humanities, the presence of books and the possibility of browsing them in the stacks—for faculty amd students—is worth as much as a lab for a natural scientist,” Scheck wrote. 

Duncan Gibson, an alumnus of Colby, said that communication and open dialogue are essential when changes are made that will affect faculty and students. 

“One can’t know the technological changes a decade in advance, so plan accordingly,” Gibson wrote in an email to the Orient. “Books can always be used, and students and faculty need appropriate access to the collections and space to use them.”

Hassen did not express concern about this type of situation taking place at Bowdoin. 
“There’s always priorities on campus,” said Hassen. “With a new president coming in, it will be interesting to see what those priorities are.”