Members of the Macalester community gathered in the Harmon Room on Thursday April 13 for a presentation, followed by a question and answer session about upcoming changes to the second floor of the DeWitt Wallace Library.
This meeting was the latest in a series of exchanges between library administrators and a group of students concerned about the implications of the proposed alterations.
Library Director Terri Fishel presented the details of the planned renovation. The plans include removing books and shelves, installing two 30-student classrooms, increasing the number of quiet study spaces, and adding a maker space.
According to Fishel, the maker space could be “pretty much what you what you want it to be,” and could include a 3D printer or sewing machines. The space could potentially house book design or book arts programs.
After Fishel’s presentation, she turned to students for questions. The students present, mostly upperclassmen, expressed concerns with what the renovations portend for the direction of the college.
Some said the changes reflected a push to divert resources away from the humanities and into departments linked to more profitable fields—while others worried that the space emphasized the need for students to economically quantify their learning experience at Macalester.
“Certain students want [maker spaces], especially if they’re in computer science or economics, or if you’re in a knitting club, but that’s not me,” Patrick Eickman ’17 said. “I need books. I need tenured professors, and I feel like all these resources are taking away from that. For me, this is a very bad path for Macalester to go down.”
“I’m worried that in 20 years, we’ll be a technical college and not the liberal arts college that I signed up for and that many other students signed up for,” Eickman added. His comment elicited sympathetic snaps from several students.
Ilana Budenosky ’17 raised concerns about the space’s ties to entrepreneurship.
“I think that lot of my peers’ frustration is at seeing how their departments are struggling in the midst of this conversation,” Budenowsky said. “Another part is this frustration and distrust of it being linked to the entrepreneurship center.”
To this point, Cleo Young ’17 sees the space as connected to entrepreneurship. She said the terminology used for the maker space “comes straight out of start-up jargon.”
Macalester’s entrepreneurship program will have two new offices on the renovated second floor for Entrepreneur in Residence Kate Ryan Reiling and Entrepreneurship Coordinator Jody Emmings.
Ryan Reiling facilitated a brainstorming session at a previous meeting where students were tasked with proposing ways for the new space to meet student needs. Librarians have also repeatedly spoken about the overlaps between the entrepreneurship program and the library’s goals.
Fishel responded to the strong skepticism that…