The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News September 7, 2007

Mudd Library Undergoes Construction, Caffeination
First floor revamped to include a new student café
Coming Soon: Work on the new café in Mudd is nearing completion.

Returning stnudents might have noticed some startling changes in Mudd Library.

As part of a $1.5 million alumni-supported renovation, Mudd’s first floor and A-level have been transformed into an Academic Commons and a new Teaching Center. To better serve students the library will also have extended and improved hours.

“There are two things we’re trying to do with the Academic Commons,” said Ray English, director of libraries: “[Have] more coordinated learning support and create an academic community in the context of a social space.”

As part of this plan to improve Mudd, the academic commons will include an in-house caf&eacute;, Azariah’s, named after Azariah Smith Root, Oberlin College’s first professional librarian. Azariah’s, set to open on Monday, Sept. 17, will offer light refreshments and what Director of Business Operations Michele Gross calls “the best coffee in Oberlin.”

To host faculty-student meetings and serve students working in the library, Azariah’s will operate most weekdays from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a break for dinner.

Unlike DeCaf&eacute;, Azariah’s will only accept ObieDollars, not cash or flex points.  “The caf&eacute; is going to be different from most of our other venues,” said Gross. “This is a retail operation that should generate revenue to cover its costs. Therefore all students can use their ObieDollars. Faculty will be able to charge to their IDs.”

She also noted that there will be more student managers than other venues on campus and called Azariah’s a  “nice opportunity to test a student-managed [Campus Dining Services] operation.” Azariah’s will be run by one student worker and one student manager. For the convenience of students, another ObieDollars machine has been installed by the new caf&eacute;.

Aside from the new caf&eacute;, the Academic Commons features new group study rooms equipped with large LCD panel monitors, a multimedia presentation area, collaborative seating with extra electrical outlets for laptop computers, an electronic classroom and another long sought-after improvement: first-floor restrooms.

The array of new amenities is anchored by a central service desk that will provide technological assistance on top of reference services. “The idea here is more individual support,” said English. “We’ll bring together what students need for their academic work.”

On A-level itself, other renovations are being made, including the development of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence under History Professor Steven Volk in what used to be Mudd’s basement computer lab. “[CTIE’s] basic purpose is to provide a central resource for Oberlin faculty in their capacity as teachers. Essentially, the function of the room will change totally from that of a computer lab to offices and a lounge for the teaching faculty,” wrote Volk in an e-mail. “While [Oberlin College Technologically Enhanced Teaching] will also have offices there, it will no longer be a computer lab for either students or faculty.” 

Additionally, the reserve room will be transferred over to the Center for Information Technology and the late night study lounge, which was converted into office space for the summer, is gradually being reconverted.

In addition to physical improvements to the library, the new and improved Mudd also boasts expanded and enhanced services. The reserve room, video checkout and interlibrary loan program have all been consolidated at the circulation desk. Library hours have been extended until 2 a.m., giving late-night crammers once caged in A-level access to the whole library, including the circulation desk. The library has also added a “recreational reading plan,” making popular new titles and current periodicals available in Azariah’s.

Students have their own concerns. Referring to the presence of a caf&eacute; with the walls of Mudd, and thus the presence of a steady coffee supply, College senior Ted Roland admitted, “I may never leave the library.” College senior Penelope Fisher expressed deeper concerns about the renovation process: “I just wish that I knew why the money was being put into a new cafeteria when there are faculty positions disappearing.”

Despite these concerns, it seems students are trickling back into Mudd and getting used to the new look, even if at first panic-stricken over the sudden and unexplained closure of A-level.


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