NEWS

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July 11, 2006

Battle of the libraries: What the Reg could learn from the Yale Law library

Working at the Yale Law School library this summer has got me thinking a lot about libraries. I've found that the YLS library is a fantastic place to work. It has a couple of things going for it. One is that it has been recently renovated so there are plenty of outlets. If you go to the Reg on any weekday it will be packed and people will be clustered around the few outlets randomly strewn about. It can get so bad that on numerous occasions I've seen people using extension cords to keep their laptop juiced.Another perk of the YLS system is that you can get a library carrel for yourself (here is a picture from a carrel). It is like having a desk away from your dorm or apartment.My carrel at the law library is great too, I can see the whole reading room (which is nice to look at, I mean, I love the Reg's brutalism, but sometimes it becomes too much--although YLS's attempts at selling its prestige through its architecture can be just as painful sometimes). Also, I have a view of Beinecke and some tower. (But my view at YLS has nothing on the view of Harper from the third floor of the Reg.)But regardless of views, at the YLS library it is nice to just have a place to work that is your own. I can leave my stuff there. I know I'll have an outlet at my desk. It is like having an office and makes for a great work environment. I'm really not sure why the Reg doesn't offer a similar service. They would become the hottest thing, ever, especially considering how popular the Reg's "lockers" despite their cost and uselessness. I'd pay up to get an assigned desk with an outlet and a built in lamp in a heartbeat. And if installing all those outlets would be costly, I'm sure revenue from people renting carrels could pay for it over time.Unfortunately, the library system is focusing its attention elsewhere. Over the next couple of years it will be building an annex (taking out George's beloved tennis courts, but the Reg has a history of getting priority over sports) that will make it the largest academic library in the world. But I'd trade that dubious distinction for a library with outlets and somewhat-nice carrels.I don't plan on seeing any of these changes during my tenure at Chicago, but it sure would be nice.