With additional reporting from Spencer Wells.

After a much anticipation, Thomas J. Bata Library is finally open once again. In May 2017, the library closed down for renovations to begin the Bata Research Innovation Cluster project (BRIC). The project is now complete, and the building ready for use. The library officially opened its doors to Trent University students and community members on Monday October 29th, the first day back from reading break. Intended to only close for 12 months, the library has taken 14 months to complete. Luckily, the library was able to begin hosting stressed out students in time for midterm season.

Originally, the plan was to close down the library for 12 months rather than 24 months to ensure an efficient and cost-effective project. The transformation of Bata Library was jump started by $7 million of provincial funding which came with a condition for the project to maintain “substantial completion” in order to maintain funding. It is unknown whether the two month delay caused an excess in expenses, or removal of funding. Trent has managed to deliver nonetheless.

The Communications and Media Relations department has clarified what the project actually means regarding the renovations: “The Bata Research and Innovation Cluster (BRIC) is a term that was put forward in the application to the federal Strategic Innovation Fund, and documents related to provincial funding, to denote Trent’s plan for the integration of library facilities and services with collaborative, research and community spaces in the Bata Library building. The term was used to demonstrate how Trent would meet funding criteria and create a “library of the future.” The BRIC will be reflected, not as a name, but rather as a concept reflected across the facility, the activities of its new units, and services that have been added to the library throughout the Bata space.”

After poor communication with students during the delay of the project, the administration has reached out with news: “Welcome Back to Bata.” The opening of Bata Library will be held in phases, with its first day of functioning marking the first phase: prioritizing access to library, IT and other student services, books, resources and most importantly study spaces. The second phase of opening will entail finishing some of the research centres and offices in the basement. Moving archives will take place in November, and an official grand re-opening of the library event will be held on the afternoon of Friday November 16, 2018.

Students take their seats in front of the green living wall on Bata Library’s second/main floor on October 29, 2018. Photo by Lubna Sadek.

The library has several new features made to benefit students, faculty, and the community. These include a living green wall on the main floor, to promote sustainability at Trent, and newly-finished individual study tables on the upper floors comprised of refurbished original furniture. 12 study rooms were created to provide group study spaces in a more private setting that are now available for bookings on the MyTrent Portal, as well as a presentation room that can be used to help create and practice presentation projects. The main floor also includes a printing room, creating a designated printing area that can keep the noise to a minimum. The Tim Horton’s that was open at entrance has been closed, and whilst the replacement is yet to be determined, there will be some sort of food station in that area.

Prior to its opening, Arthur tagged along on a tour for members of the TCSA Board of Directors. The tour was given by Project Manager Linda Smith, and University Librarian Robert Clarke. The two noted that the interior design focused on upholding the original Ron Thom architecture, and was carefully considered throughout the process of renovations. Notes of the Ron Thom colour palette that was originally used in the library can be found on the freshly painted accent walls, and the furniture was carefully selected to be modern with a 60s vibe. Graphics on the glass surrounding bookable study rooms give a cool look, and some privacy to those inside. The stacks on the third floor have been cut to be six inches shorter to meet fire safety standards, and have been placed a wider space apart for accessibility. Clarke commented, “The focus is: views,” with the open concept letting a lot of natural light in, and people inside can enjoy Trent’s beauty from almost anywhere within the library.

Librarians Jean Luyben and Jacquie Slate celebrate the 2018 reopening on October 29, 2018. Photo by Lubna Sadek.

The library’s facilities were chosen on the basis of integrating research and studies, and providing a space where more interaction between individuals from different communities and representatives can take place – to create symposiums, meetings, and projects. As Clarke states, “Instead of talking about it, the goal was to actually do it, and create a project that will facilitate these visions.”

Much of the library’s components were inspired from a survey that circulated students in 2015 to draft ideas for these renovations, and is said to be based on many suggestions compiled through the survey. Perhaps a suggestion to the administration would be to circulate another survey to collect student input on satisfaction, and knowledge on how to use the library. Speaking of which…

With the delay in opening the library, the Student Centre and other campus locations have been the main study areas for students. With Trent’s growing population, these study spots have become scarce, especially during the first two months of the academic year. A few students shared their thoughts on the matter with Arthur, and how they felt about the library’s closure until this week.

“I feel frustrated that it took so long, and how the only way we knew about it was through rumours. It did make me look for other study spaces in and out of campus, albeit some were more isolated than others. I’m looking forward to using the library for quiet study.”
– Julia, second-year student in Environmental Science
“Temporary study spaces were not accessible for students with disabilities. Designated cafeterias as study spaces was “laughable” solution for library closure. Extremely limited plug access without library. Unacceptable that it has been closed this long while students still pay full tuition for campus services.”
– Carly, third-year student in Biomedical Science
“[The Student Centre] is very packed and noisy in the hallways. [This] affected me and a number of other friends looking for places to study alone or in groups. I would rather use the library for extended study than having to commute due to volume of other study spots.”
– Jinal, second-year student

Thankfully, many of the student’s worries have been put at ease with the opening of Bata and it’s facilities. On the opening day, students seemed pleased with the library, an almost fully functional one at that. Students have shared their first impressions of the library with Arthur. Many first- and second-year students, who are seeing the library for the first time, are pleased with the designated study spaces that the library provides. The open concept is appealing, and the variety of seating areas is convenient to meet the needs of individual student space to really focus on individual work, whilst also having both open spaces and bookable rooms for groups to meet. The abundance of outlets has satisfied the needs of all the dying laptops and phones, and the living green wall seems to have left a solid impression amongst students, with the adjective “cool” taking the win.

A second-year student noted, “Trent actually feels like a real university now. The Student Centre was nice but it got pretty loud, and it’s more for socializing. With the library, there is now a proper space to study and quiet areas with desks for one person when you really need to focus.”

It’s safe to say that the library has already begun to facilitate a space that was lacking for students at Trent. The Student Centre and cafeterias were fairly loud and distracting when one needs to be productive, and only facilitates certain learning styles.

The opening day at Bata included a board on the main floor that students left with their first impressions, and the two major recurring comments were “amazing” and “took you long enough.” Accurate.

A whiteboard on second floor of Bata Library with student first impressions on October 29, 2018. Photo by Lubna Sadek.

It has come to Arthur’s attention that first- and second-year students have not been familiarized with the library and how to use it. In the past, students beginning at Trent were given a virtual tour and guideline with an accompanying quiz to be accessed through the MyTrent Portal. This guide and quiz served as a useful tool to introduce students to the ins-and-outs of the library and its use. Arthur sends out a recommendation to the administration to continue that tradition, allowing students to know the first floor from the second and how to use TOPCAT.

Otherwise, well done Trent, you did good.