Barnard SGA’s Rep Council re-convened for the semester last night for a meeting that was somewhat informative but also probably a waste of time. This week, SGA was joined by Provost Linda Bell and Jen Green, Dean of Barnard Library and Academic Information Services, to discuss plans for the new Milstein Center library building that is slated for opening this coming fall.
Bell did most of the talking, with Green chiming in to confirm a few points. The Milstein Center (are we really sticking with that name?), as anyone who has tried to walk through Barnard’s campus knows, is made of two parts: to the South, a lower rectangular building, which will house the library and related services, and to the North, a tower that will host academic departments in the social science–economics, urban studies, political science, and history. This means that students in these departments will no longer have to spend time lost in the maze that is the temporary LeFrak offices in order to find their professors.
Significantly, explained Bell, the new library will be more than just a new study space. “There’s nothing wrong with carrels and books,” she said, “I love carrels and books.” But the new library will also have space for co-curricular and research study, with different centers that allow students to “grow and explore.” This includes the Empirical Reasoning Center, a Digital Humanities Center, a Design Center (like a makerspace), a Media Center, and a Movement Lab. Bell was especially proud to discuss the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, which will work with faculty to create more engaging and inclusive classrooms. The library will also house the Athena Center, the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and, significantly, a center for computational science. This “will allow us to teach and do big data,” including complex math and computer science. The center will also include a cs classroom, and marks the beginning of Barnard’s own computer science department. Some students asked about the specifics of this department, the dean that Barnard plans on hiring to lead it, and the classes it will offer. Bell wasn’t sure, but this is certainly a big step into bringing Barnard into the modern era.
Besides computer science, there’s still a lot to figure out. Barnard has yet to decide what to do with the space that will open up in the LeFrak Center, as there is a constant demand for more space from different sectors of the College. But all in all, plans seem to be going well, and Barnard might soon be something more than a glorified construction site. Green emphasized that the building will function as a “conversation” between different ideas and ways of thinking. Bell concurred: “we all know it’s about people and not buildings.”
I think all of this could have been said in an email, to save time for the Student Government Association to, well, govern. But the new library seems pretty cool. Let’s hope that this all proves to be worth it.
In other SGA news: