Students lobbied to preserve the Blommer Science Library at a Georgetown University Student Association town hall Oct. 23, in response to an announcement last spring that the library would permanently close within the next year.
The town hall comes after university officials announced in April that Blommer, which is located in the Reiss Science Building, would permanently close and the library’s collections would be relocated to Lauinger Library because of renovations set for Reiss due to flooding and mold concerns.
After the announcement, students started an online petition to keep the library open, which had obtained 421 signatures at time of print. The library’s relocation was then put on hold over the summer pending reevaluation.
To address the backlash about the closure, the university created the Blommer Library Faculty Review Committee to help decide the library’s future, according to committee member and chemistry department Co-Chair Tim Warren. Committee members include Dean of the Library Harriette Hemmasi and a graduate student representative, as well as select faculty members from each science department, the School of Foreign Services’s science, technology and international affairs major and the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
Relocating Blommer could create conflict for faculty and students who use the library as a collaborative research space, according to Warren.
“The faculty are concerned as well because it’s used for lots of different ways in teaching and then in our scholarship that we jointly do with students,” Warren said in an interview with The Hoya. “We just want to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on all the academic programs and research that’s going on.”
The committee will meet during the spring 2020 semester and offer a recommendation to both the provost and main campus executive faculty, who will then vote to decide plans for Blommer, according to Warren.
If the committee decides to move Blommer’s resources to Lauinger, the Blommer science librarians will be relocated to other Georgetown libraries, according to Blommer librarian Holly Surbaugh.
“We would try to compensate as much as possible,” Surbaugh said. “Jill and I would still be there would still be primarily focused on serving science students and providing access to science collections.”
The town hall featured a question-and-answer session for attendees with Warren and librarians Jill Hollingsworth and Surbaugh. GUSA historian Henry Westerman (SFS ’21) moderated the discussion.
The event sought to clarify some of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the library, according to Westerman.
GUSA vice president Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) frequents Blommer to find many of her science textbooks and use the scientific software downloaded onto the computers. Closing Blommer would negatively impact access to resources for science students, she said at the town hall.
“I know many science students call Blommer their home, so not having the ability to have our own library is kind of jarring — especially because now we will only have one library,” Olvera said.
Blommer regulars provided a passionate dissent leading to the reassessment, according to Hollingsworth.
“We had a haiku contest last spring and somebody posted a little haiku about, ‘Oh Blommer, we will miss you so,’” Hollingsworth said in an interview with The Hoya. “That kind of sums it up.”
Unlike many workspaces in Lauinger, the main library on campus, Blommer is quieter and provides a better study environment, according to Blommer regular Kara Struckman (COL ’22).
“I think Lau is very overcrowded. And for me having my own space, I can’t focus unless I have a big space, and that’s something I really like about Blommer,” Struckman said at the town hall. “There’s also more natural light and for me, the environment in Blommer is much more conducive to being productive.”
Blommer is currently open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday nights with shorter hours Thursday through Saturday nights, which makes it available later than other alternatives to Lauinger such as the Bioethics Research Library in Healy Hall, which usually closes at 9 p.m.
The committee will host at least two focus groups to learn more about how students use Blommer’s resources. As the plans for the library are decided, Warren hopes that the student engagement will shape the future of Blommer.
“Student feedback is crucial for this process to work well for the Georgetown community. I’m excited that we have a chance to talk about the ways that students use the Blommer Science Library,” Warren said. “It’s very heartening to hear it serves as the glue in the community of science students here.”