Seattle Central’s Unconventional Library Tailored for Students’ Needs

Any mention of a library generally conjures up images of quiet bibliophiles, spiritually conversing with the cuboids in their hands — which is typical, but not the full picture at Seattle Central College.

Comprised of a silent study area, discussion rooms, group working tables, computer sections and shelves of encyclopedias, Seattle Central’s library serves its vast community six days a week. The multiple divisions of the library reflect the librarians’ attempts at answering the various demands of the student body. “Students have a number of different needs from this place,” recounted Althea Lazzaro, reference and

instruction librarian. As many may have noticed, our library is versatile — a venue where students socialize, study, play games or even eat.

Catering to the wide range of needs, Seattle Central’s librarians enforce policies with open-mindedness, humanity and empathy. “Not all learning happens independently. For whom studying is a social activity, they are learning with their friends, or with their groups. They can get very loud, but it is also part of their learning process,” Althea added. “When I was a college student, there were spaces in the library where we could eat.” Indeed, activities occur simultaneously at our library, and according to her, the key to harmony is self-discipline: “Even though there are people who are very disruptive sometimes, I see hundreds more interactions per day where students are showing each other respect. I feel really appreciative of our students.”

Our library does not merely operate like a conventional, noiseless one, and our students are delighted by the nontraditional approach. John Peterson, who frequently visits on weekdays, appreciates the “community aspect” of the library. “Out here you can sit down next to someone and ask them what they are doing; or if you see a friend, you can still hold a conversation,” he expressed with a contented smile. “I don’t have any complaints.”  Similarly, another student, Dunxuan Li, also displayed satisfaction with the interactions present in our library. “I think a library is not only a place for students to read alone, but also for those who like studying together,” echoing John’s compliment. While Althea sees possible betterments in the library if more room is granted, both students are pleased with the current environment. “As a student, I think there are enough resources in the library for all of us,” Dunxuan added, although she would be even happier if more group working tables were offered, enlarging the public study area. John, on the other hand, gave exceptionally positive feedback. “The space is good because there is always a seat. I have never been at a place in the library where I was looking for a space to study and it wasn’t available to me,” he recalled. “The space that we have is totally adequate. It’s good enough.”

Functioning also as a social venue, Seattle Central’s library accommodates rich dimensions of diversity. As reflected in the library’s latest

Annual Student Survey, more than 80% of respondents are happy with its resources, more than 85% of them are happy with its service and more than 86% agree that the library has contributed to their success as students. Ultimately, John and Dunxuan are unanimous in another area of potential improvement: the need for more books — as Dunxuan concluded, “If a student wants to find a specific book, it may not be there.”

By Tracy Lam

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