Library lowdown

January 25, 2007

Character and Personality is a 13-volume book set, 3 volumes of which presumably contain lithographs of correct postures. Visible from the entrance of Riggs library, it looks like the sort of classy antiquarian series that replaces s’s with italic f’s.

Most Georgetown students will never have an opportunity to know if that’s the case, though, because Riggs Library is off-limits to students. While it’s true that the library is open for special events, like the recent Hilltop Auction, I shouldn’t have to look like a cattle buyer with a blazer and white paddle to see a library. It’s time that Riggs, the most architecturally interesting room on campus, was opened to the students who usually toil in Lauinger’s 70’s-flavored depths.

Jacques Arsenault, a spokesperson for the University, wrote in an e-mail that “because of the active schedule of events in Riggs Library, because the room does not have any full-time staff, and because of the ornate architecture and furnishings, and the valuable collections contained in the library, it is not ideally set up for casual use.” He also wrote that, because the library doesn’t have desks, it’s hard to study there. Each of these concerns, while initially reasonable, falls apart when considered more closely.

For example, Riggs does have events, but they aren’t frequent. For five weeks in January and February, there will be two events in the library, all of them on weekends. When I went on Tuesday, the doors were locked and the lights were off. Unless one of the half-dozen Stewards iterations was having a secret meeting I couldn’t see, the library could’ve been opened to the students that day.

The room doesn’t have full time staff, but it’s hard to see why Georgetown couldn’t set up a desk and put in a work-study student. Care should be taken with the architecture and collections, but Riggs served as Georgetown’s primary library once, and I doubt students have become particularly more likely to commit vandalism since then.

The library has been used as extra space during Study Days before, so it’s possible to move in chairs and desks. Surely a university that can fit people into a pit like McShain can do the same for Riggs.

Twister Murchison (SFS ‘08), president of the Student Association, made student access to Riggs Library an issue of his campaign and administration. By working with university administrators, he was able to get it opened for a few days last May, but it’s not enough.

“I’d like to see us get to a point where the library is far more open to student access, not just during study days,” Murchison said.

When students tour Georgetown, they’re shown Healey, but they end up taking classes in the utilitarian, if environmentally friendly, ICC.

We have plenty of old, beautiful buildings on campus. Now we should have a chance to use them.

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