Revisiting the 1914 Library

The 1914 library sucks. Hard. You’ve done the routine: waiting several hours of your life in long lines just to reach the library entrance where you are greeted, inevitably, by a cluster of students scrambling for books, forms and, by some wispy fleeting effort, time itself. And all this as you wait another 15 minutes tacked onto the several hundred already donated to the lofty cause of free psych books. And with your hands empty, you exit now that your sinking feeling has been confirmed. You should have come earlier.

I’ll stop channeling last spring. But you know what I’m talking about. Either you’re waiting in line whole days for the library to open just to fight your JA’s grandma over some two dollar edition of Salman Rushdie’s Shame (the feeling you should be feeling), or you’re one of those other students who wakes when the cock crows thrice, dressed from the night before, who walks over to 1914 in the dead of (still) night, bloodshot eyes and Advil ready, before camping on the stoop. Taken together, our collective student body experiences go a long way in undermining the vague premise of 1914: easy access to books for financial aid students. Taken currently, 1914 is a piece of infrastructural corner cutting so antiquated and utterly defunct that Ephraim Williams would have cause to turn in his grave. And for administrators reading this, don’t take it personally. I’m just saying. Cookies and milk can only take us so far. The 1914 Library is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

So, here is my proposition for a better 1914. A few quick, relatively easy steps will put students on the fast track to easier books and less wasted time.

I’ll break the process into two components: relocation and reorganization. For the first, 1914 needs to try its hardest to get off Water Street. Why is it that I average three trips per semester to Water Street, almost all during the first two weeks of the semester? I might as well pack a tent care of WOC and bring a canteen for the trip. Why not try somewhere more central to campus? Think about Paresky; any one of its remarkable venues, the Student Organization Suite, the Great Hall, a meeting room even, beats the bejesus out of Curbside Water Street. The 1914 Library will not move into any of these spaces permanently; instead, the idea is operational occupation. You’ll see what I mean.

Taking the idea of Paresky in mind, I’d like to introduce an organizational idea, specifically, segmentation. The process should be broken up into two pieces, the first dealing with book orders and the other with pickup. For the first stage, we need an order form and a ticketing machine. The order form is crafted care of 1914 (preferably online, thank you!) and filled out by students, including the particular personal (name, unix, etc.) and class information (books). This is fairly standard. Now imagine a ticketing machine, a generic sort of box with a button on it. When a person presses the button, the machine whirrs and spits out a paper with a number on it. When the next person comes along and presses the button again, the machine spits out the next number in the series and so on.

On a given day, students wake up and complete their forms, then make way towards the appointed venue. There, they wait until the venue opens. Once the venue does open, the first people in the line move forward, order form in hand, walking until they reach the ticketing machine; there, they press the button (whirrr, spit) and attach their ticketing number to their order form. As a final step, 1914 workers collect the order forms and sort them according to number. You, the student, move onto bigger and better exploits, done.

Meanwhile, the diligent 1914 staff returns to headquarters, a.k.a. Water Street, for rehydration, a.k.a preparing orders. The orders are compiled by ticket number. Once each order is complete, 1914 sends the respective student a confirmation e-mail listing available and unavailable items. The e-mail also includes a time to pick up that specific order from Water Street. A few days later, you arrive, pickup and get on with life.

The process is fair. It saves time. And it gives students early opportunities to find unavailable books. Everyone’s happy; everyone goes home. 1914, for its part, will need an order form, a ticketing machine and some extra workers. How will it pay for these things? Money abounds on this campus; I hear College Council has some extra green to burn. Ask them. This is, by any means, a completed model; please send any logistical suggestions to 10aba. I’m listening.

Alan Arias ’10 is an English and math major from the Bronx, N.Y.