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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Save my job, please don’t close the Science Library

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: Opinions

ARTS AND SCIENCEs: This bust of JFK sits in the Gerstenzang Science Library. <br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

ARTS AND SCIENCEs: This bust of JFK sits in the Gerstenzang Science Library.
PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

In a turn of events surprising no one but herself, my friend Sara got into law school. She is going all the way to New York, so I am sad because I am codependent. On the bright side though, she is going to be a lawyer, so I can stop worrying about someone finding the bodies. All joking aside (we hope), it seems rather mind blowing that she gets to start such a big new adventure, while I am here, counting down the days until Ireland. Maybe I shouldn’t be so jealous since she worked very hard, but I can’t help feel that some unhappy things may be going down in the future.

I am a little bit worried about my job. I worked in the Gerstenzang Science Library all summer and have continued since then; obviously I kind of like this place. Not being a science person, I have no real use for any of the materials at my disposal, but it is fun promising myself that I will someday read all about the principles of quantum mechanics. Under the staircase is a large bronze bust of John F. Kennedy, which is possibly my absolute favorite thing on the Brandeis campus, and really puts the drippy “Louis Brandeis as Albus Dumbledore” statue to shame.

A friend once needed help on a project involving genetics and intelligence, and I was able to find a wealth of materials in close proximity. If you are doing research and writing long, detailed, scientific papers, it makes sense to have pertinent works condensed into a semi-private and thoroughly quiet location like the Science Library, without the broad interference of an unfocused collection. Yet some strange and ominous harbingers of change are evident. First, the reference librarians were moved up to the main library, and I did not say anything. Then student workers were forced to take hourly statistics to try to prove to some authority that people actually come here, and I did not speak. But now, there are boxes everywhere, books are being packed and shifted and sent back to the Farber/Goldfarb, and I feel I must speak.

In spite of evidence to the contrary obtained through my observational research, I am hoping that LTS or the administration, or someone, is not planning on closing down Gerstenzang. We just got that fancy pointy new science building; surely there can be no excuse about needing work space, like with another recent debacle. Also, the space would be rather odd to put a lab or a classroom in, since there is a giant hole in the center of the structure; supplies natural light, yes, conducive to teaching, no. If the issue is about usage, with the thought being that no one comes here and uses the collection, I must vehemently disagree. You cannot judge usage by the number of books checked out or how many people are recorded in a head count. For the people who use the library, the appeal is in its status as a hidden, semi-secret location, where one can honestly sit all day without being interrupted. This comfort also lends itself to lower check-out rates, because who needs to take out a book and risk a fine when you can read all you want here at a nice desk tucked away in a corner. Having spent countless hours wiping down the stacks with a damp cloth, I feel qualified to say that the books and people at the Science library are happy there and do not want to be moved.

One thing I would just like to take issue with while on the topic is the matter of the art that is located in Gerstenzang. There are some very interesting, vaguely science-related paintings that are just rotting here, tucked behind bookshelves in broken frames, presented in a less than optimal manner. As I said, Kennedy is gathering dust under the stairs. Maybe instead of fiddling with the books, someone could take a look at what is on the walls and see if something could not be done to increase the aesthetic appeal of the space. Although just to be safe if the library ends up closing, I call dibs on the JFK bust.

I know I am sort of preemptively striking based upon rumor and speculation, but it really can’t hurt to remind people of the value of Gerstenzang Science Library, especially since so many people who might be interested in using it do not know that it exists. There are many complaints about lack of quiet work space on campus, yet here is a quiet work space, with many available computers, that could be lost soon. Obviously it is necessary to cut back on amenities during difficult economic times, but a library is definitely a necessity. Removing a unique element in the realm of the sciences would also hurt our reputation as a research institution. So in short, I am saying to those who have power and may be thinking of such things, please don’t close the Science Library. I like my job; I don’t want to look for another one.