Shelbi Sullaway is a mechanical engineering junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
There’s no place quite like the library when you’re in college. The library is my home base when I don’t have classes. The first three floors are a go-to for studying or hanging out with friends, and when I need complete silence, the fourth and fifth floors are places I can completely zone in on what I need to do.
At a school with more than 20,000 students, it can be hard to find your desired study spot, even in a huge library. Other buildings with study spaces, such as Baker, can fill up quickly and are out of the way for many. There are several outdoor study spots, but the wind and glare from the sun can make studying there impractical. The library seems to have it all — a relatively central location, both quiet and loud zones, computers, a coffee shop and tech help.
Which is why it came as a surprise to me that the library is scheduled to close in 2023 for renovations, and it is set to take until Fall 2025. This multi-million dollar renovation was initially supposed to go into effect in 2019, but it got pushed back.
University spokesperson Matt Lazier told Mustang News in September that construction on Kennedy Library was set to begin Summer 2023 and won’t be completed until late 2025.
During construction, library services will be housed in the Crandall Gym building temporarily.
In its constant aim for gentrification and revamping of the old to appeal to prospective students and families, Cal Poly fails to take into account the needs of current students. The decision to close down the library exemplifies how Cal Poly prioritizes its image over the experience of the students who go here. The library is not just a resource students use in college, but a need. There are so many individuals who rely on that space: the freshman who wants to stay up late studying but not keep their roommates up, the person who simply cannot focus at home, the group that needs a study room to work on a class project.
With the renovation happening so soon, it begs the question of how necessary it is. It isn’t uncommon to hear complaints from students about the current state of the library. Many people feel that it is overcrowded, with not enough seating in preferred areas, and it has an outdated, unappealing look. The renovation aims to address these problems, with plans to add 1,100 seats, expand the 24-hour study space to the whole first floor and modernize many features of the library, including adding an adaptable glass roof.
While there is definitely much room for improvement of the current state of the library, it seems rash to close the facility without backup study spaces for students. During talk of the library closing in 2019, the plan outlined closing “zones” of the library while leaving space to still be used for studying. It was not clear how large or small these zones would be, and it is also unclear if this still applies to the 2023 plan. Also, they proposed that the new building, the Frost Center, will open in the near future as a hub for study spots. However, this building is primarily for classrooms, so without dedicated study spaces it seems unlikely that there will be enough room to support all the students that are being redirected from the library.
It sounds cliche to complain about how tuition money is being used, but it is hard not to complain when Cal Poly is funding $73 million toward a project which will leave current students with no study spaces for two years. Ultimately, money only comes into play for students when it affects Cal Poly’s reputation. College life can already be stressful enough as it is, but forcing students to search even harder to find study spaces can make them feel even more lost in their environment. Many colleges have more than one library, but Cal Poly does not have that to fall back on. Not only is this project displacing students from a place to study, but it is displacing staff who work in the Kennedy Library.
It seems that on campus, as soon as one renovation ends, another starts. But when is the school finally “good enough?” I think it is time Cal Poly starts investing in the wellbeing of its own students rather than lofty projects.