Western Washington University Libraries

The Wilson Library and Haggard Hall form what most students commonly call “The Library” at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. It consists of multiple study spaces, a tutoring center, rooms overflowing with books, computer labs, the student technology center, and a labyrinth of hallways with anything from classrooms to multipurpose rooms. As a freshman living on campus, I have spent many hours here studying and acting as an observer for the many activities and actions that take place in this library. I have found the community in the library is what helps drive and form its current state. The library does its best to serve and meet the needs of the students of Western Washington University, and forms a unique community and backdrop for those who enter.

Old Main (Top Left), Haggard Hall (Top Right), Wilson Library (Bottom)

Wilson Library stands proudly alongside Old Main, the two most beautiful buildings on campus bordering the main lawn. With its old bricks and arched entrance it stands out among many of the other, newer, concrete buildings on campus. Within Wilson Library sits Zoe’s Bookside Bagels, a place where anyone can order bagels, baked goods, snacks, coffee, and tea. The main study areas are near the entrance include the Daylight Lounge, The Corner, and the sky bridge that connects Wilson Library and Haggard Hall. Computer labs sit beside the Student Technology Center and near the tutoring center so students can complete anything requiring a computer or printer. The Student Technology Center not only offers tech support to students, but also provides rental of various pieces of hardware and items to help student create the best work without purchasing the equipment themselves. This area is also equipped with specialized printing and scanning devices for large photo formats, 3D printing, and high resolution scanning. The upper floors of Wilson contain the Reading Room and abundant silent study space in various locations.

University students all around the world expect miracles out of their libraries. Similar to genres of movies and books, university libraries have expectations that students hold when they walk into a library. A university library is expected to have everything a student needs but cannot afford. They are expected to hold every work and collections of modern popular writers, textbooks, classics, and old texts that students need. They are expected to have computer labs for students to work on that never have down time and printers that are guaranteed to work at 11:58 PM on Sunday. Study areas are specific and unique to school libraries; they need to have the perfect atmosphere and setting, along with providing multiple study environments for a variety of students’ learning and study styles. The western libraries do their best to meet all of these expectations and most students have few complaints regarding the library’s equippedness for its responsibilities.

Zoe’s Bookside Bagels (Pictured Above) serves fruit, bagels, snacks, and hot drinks

The library is not exclusively a physical place; it can also be a social place of belonging, community, and culture. The community in the library is what drives some of the larger resources to students, like the Student Technology Center and the Tutoring Center. It’s is also what makes the library more of an individualistic and as some would say; antisocial, environment. Many people who enter the library seek out a location of solitude on the upper floors as it is their idea study environment. The upper rooms offer desks with dividers and are in designated silent areas to accommodate for this form of study. The dividers are not only physical but also create a social boundary that almost shouts “leave me alone, I’m studying!” Many students’ destination in the library is Zoe’s. Some come to grab food or a snack as fuel, and others choose caffeinated study supplements like coffee or tea. Zoe’s and the space around it server as one of the more social locations in the library and is rarely quiet except for the mornings and night. It is not uncommon to see students studying with a hot drink and textbook or just getting something to eat before class or an exam. The library forms a highly unique environment where it is full of people, many of which want to be left alone to their studies.

The study spaces are all unique and provide a variety of environments and locations for students to study in. The larger ones by the entrance serve as a great location for study groups and friends to work. The tables and chairs are on wheels to allow movement of furniture throughout the space and they are optimally well-lit. The other study spaces such as the corner, the daylight lounge, and the sky bridge, all are set up in a social configuration; however you will rarely see people talking to each other. This connects back to the social and community aspects of the library. In most places seeing fifty to a hundred people all positioned around tables not speaking, you would think it as a bad dream, or a waiting room, but in the library this is considered a normal activity. I have found it a rare occurrence to find a strong sense of community and culture centered in the library. Its atmosphere does not provide or contribute to building these factors and does not necessarily need to be provided for students’ academic needs, but could be a nice addition.

While the library can be an amazing resource for students across western, it also has drawbacks. The library functions as most public locations do; on a first come first serve basis. If the computer lab is full, you are out of luck. Many students express trouble with printing in the library and the printers and computers can be picky especially during peak hours. The tutoring center can be helpful for lower level math classes providing help from students in higher level classes. Often however, your best resource is your professor and their respective office hours when you need assistance especially things that are specific to the course or their class. Zoe’s bagels as mentioned previously is a convenient location for food and refreshment in the library, however similar to most on-campus dining options, it has the ambiance of dining hall or cafeteria with its sterilized university décor, staffing, and food. The library also limits itself to be only what it was designed for and not much more. The library has scarce events and few people who would call it “a second home” or “their favorite place to be.”

Despite its few shortcomings, the library is a highly useful and diverse resource that students here at western should use and take advantage of during their time here. The Library is an effective and useful resource for the students of Western Washington University and serves is intended purpose well. Even though the library could and can still step beyond its design into a more diverse and vibrant space, it does its job well. It does its job without too many frills and complications, meeting the expectations and needs of the students it serves