For Cassandra Hendricks, the St. Catherine University library offers a quiet campus refuge and a place to team up with fellow students. But the graduate student worries that next fall that space will be much more cramped.
Students and faculty are pushing back against a university plan to carve out library space for its Public Safety Department, saying the move will further cut into library real estate after a student services office moved in earlier this year. University officials say the move is necessary to restore the lounge area on the second floor of the Coeur de Catherine (CDC) building where the Public Safety Department moved three years ago after its original location, a small building behind Derham Hall, got contaminated with mold.
The library is on the first floor of the CDC.
But opponents of the move insist the university should have sought more input from the campus community.
"This campus has a social justice mission statement and should commit more fully to enacting a deeper level of transparency regarding decisions that affect a central, integral space everyone on campus uses," said Hendricks, who is studying for a master's degree in library information science and is vice president of the student group Progressive Librarians Guild.
University President ReBecca Koenig Roloff, in an e-mail responding to student concerns, explained that the current location of Public Safety was always intended to be temporary, and it needed to move to reopen the student lounge. "Making that space accessible again to all, but especially students, has been the key request of students since I arrived," Roloff said.
"How we use our precious space for highest and best use will change with time," she wrote.
But Hendricks said she is disappointed with what she sees as a lack of outreach from the university throughout the process. She also raised concerns about the Public Safety Department after a security guard shot himself in 2017 and blamed it on a black suspect who didn't exist.
"The campus has not fully recovered from that incident," she said.
The university surveyed undergraduates about the proposal to move Public Safety into the library in the spring, but the Graduate Student Advisory Board, on which Hendricks sits, found out about it just before spring break. More than 40 graduate students raised concerns in a meeting with university officials and via e-mail.
In the e-mail, the students described the plan as shortsighted and said it contradicts the university's enrollment goals over the next few years.
"The university plans to increase the number of commuter and graduate students, many of whom spend much of their time in the library," the e-mail said.
David Lesniaski, associate professor of library and information sciences, said the move is a bad idea: "The library was designed as it was precisely to accommodate … the needs of the library into the future."
Toccara Stark, the university's vice president of marketing and communications, said the timing of the move is still being determined, but it is expected to occur over the summer.
As for students' apprehensions about the Public Safety Department, Stark said it is a safety team and is dedicated to serving the community.