More time for the Special Collections to be open so that students can visit easier, a more user friendly way to access rare books, better study spaces for Hayden

Alex Burgess
December 17, 2015

Note: I wrote this for one of my classes, so please excuse the informality of it.

My main problem with the MIT libraries, as you know, is that they have really inconvenient times. I worked three jobs this semester and started at 8 every morning and finished at 7 every night except for Fridays when I was done at 12:30. However, Special Collections was not open on Fridays, so the only day that I could make the time it was not even open. This was frustrating to me because I felt restricted on my project due to the limited time I spent with the object. Luckily, Professor Frampton allowed for us to go during more classes, otherwise I do not believe I would have had enough information on my object. At first I was not really bothered because I understand people working there should not have to work 24/7, but after visiting the libraries at BC my mind changed. First of all, they had many more libraries with rare objects (most likely because they are more humanities based than MT), but they also had far better times. Their regular library was open 24/7 and had 5 large floors full of books and great study spaces, something I don’t think Hayden really has (or at least from what I’ve seen). The other libraries were open until 8 on most days, which made it easier for me and I could actually go study objects there. Think one thing that needs to happen is either to extend the hours or allow students to come in on a weekend day. If I could have dedicated a few hours on my weekend to studying my object I could have finished everything. Even if it was open until 8 I could have had an hour each night to go and work on it, which would have been fine.
Another thing that BC did that I liked is that they were able to get the objects to me within an hour. I told them what I wanted, and by the time I got there, the object were ready (~1 hour). Special Collections requires us to submit a day before and I think that is a little inconvenient. What if someone had work cancelled randomly one day and wanted to come in? They would not be able to look at the object because of this.
The search system is also very confusing. I had no idea what to look for and how to use it. I did not know how to submit a form and seemed very counter intuitive to me. It would be nice if objects could be categorized and looked at easily. Also, if they had descriptions/titles that were easy to understand.
Better study spaces is also something I would love to see in the MIT libraries. The Student Center has great reading rooms that have a table, chairs, and are closed off to others. However, those get taken very quickly as there are about 5 of them. If Hayden had these and it was promoted, I think a lot of students would go there to study. In my 3.5 years at MIT, I have been to Hayden maybe a total of 10 times, mainly due to classes.
Something that should certainly stay the same is the staff. Stephen was amazing and incredibly helpful. Even when I didn’t ask for help, he would come over to give great insight and show me things that I didn’t know to look for and I felt like I understood the objects so much more because of him. The rest of the staff was also amazing. The workshops they gave us were great and I appreciated the fact these people would take so much time out of their days to show us really cool work that they did. The letter locking workshop was amazing, and also showed me how much time she put into setting it up. The staff was great, and I appreciate them so much. Thank you!