Library of the Future Sucks So Far: Bata and Accessibility

Bata library. Photo by Lubna Sadek.

Bata Library, as of October 29, is open for campus use again! With less individual study spaces than ever before and rooms that are already booked up for weeks, the Trent student population is rightfully disappointed. What did we wait for? A plant wall? New paint on the walls? New couches? Reduction of divided study tables? The $18-million budget makes me think about just what the money was used for, if not drastically reducing the library-esque elements of the space.

Ron Thom, the original architect of Bata Library, the Science Complex, and Champlain and Lady Eaton Colleges, wanted the campus library to be the hub of activity for Trent. When originally opened in 1967, it offered a large amount of single study spaces on the floor of the main entrance (technically the second floor on the floor plans), as well as a section of select books on this main level. Other floors had even more study spaces for lone academics looking for a quiet spot. He was quite passionate about the library and all the buildings he designed, hand-picking accent colours and custom-made furniture for Bata. It is arguably frustrating to look at old images of the library when it was first opened and immediately feel jealous at how much study space Trent academics had in 1967.

I find it increasingly interesting that there are a number of items that have been either removed or purposefully overlooked in the so-called renovations of Bata. The main two elevators of the space are decades old, the linoleum tiles peeling up and posing a tripping hazard. The elevator that can be accessed by a catwalk from Bata Podium (or as Thom called it, “University Court”) is not only dimly lit by one dying fluorescent bar, but the two automatic doors that provide access to it are either locked or not turned on at many points throughout the day. In the atrium of the library the stairway is also still under construction, missing panels on the sides of the steps. There is visual tape to mark where one step ends, but it is not tactile for grip.

It is inexplicably frustrating to be a student hopeful about the re-opening of the library – a supposed quiet place to study – and enter it for the first time to see next to no places for individual study. I understand that there are a multitude of tables in the library; however, this only caters to socializing with friends or group projects. The library should be for quiet study and individual academic work, while the student center is more suited for group projects.

Please improve the accessible entrances to the library. Please add more single study spaces for absolute silent study. Please make the stairs of Bata’s atrium safer. Please replace the dangerous floors of the main two elevators. Please put new lights into the elevator by the Podium catwalk.

So many simple fixes for problems could make it so much easier for all students, but clearly, we aren’t the priority.