Bass Library equipped for modern students

Yale’s underground library is going mainstream.

When the newly named Bass Library — formerly known as Cross Campus Library — opens Oct. 19, Yalies will no longer have to grapple with a leaking roof and computer clusters that some students describe as coming straight out of “Office Space.”

Library administrators said the renovation will cater to modern students whose learning can be supported by chattering study groups, the Internet and various multimedia resources — not to mention cups of hot chocolate and sandwiches from the library’s brand new sustainable cafe.

Some students said they hope the new library will soon become a part of their study routine, but others said they plan to steer clear of the outgoing construction crews and incoming crowds when the library first opens.

Given the deficit of group-oriented study spaces on campus, library administrators said they decided to build four electronic classrooms for up to 28 people each, as well as group study rooms with plasma screens, projection equipment and smart boards.

Wireless Internet access will be available throughout the library, Associate University Librarian Danuta Nitecki said. She said the electronic classrooms feature drop-down walls that divide students into smaller groups of 14. One room features a laboratory-style configuration of computer stations, and another includes rearrangeable desks with space for laptops.

Although library administrators said they have added a wealth of new technological resources, some students said they are skeptical that the new library will respond to their study needs.

“I had no knowledge of any of the specific changes being made to the library,” Conor Robinson ’10 said. “I think that demonstrates to a certain extent how little student input was considered in the renovation decisions. Also, whereas I support the beautification and modernization of Yale, the sound of jackhammers and drills outside the lecture halls takes a lot away from what otherwise would be a close to idyllic learning environment.”

Nitecki admits the library is still a “hard hat construction zone,” but she said she is excited about the design of the new space.

“There’s all sorts of fabulous material: brick slate millwork, marble, stonework,” she said. “Custom-made textile hangings will be installed against brick walls, beautifully designed tiles will be used to create a frieze for an entry, and a lead-framed glazed glass partition between the study lounge/cafe and the secured area of the library will echo the detailing of windows in Sterling Memorial Library.”

Some students said they are looking forward to being able to use a study space with an atmosphere distinct from that of Sterling Memorial Library.

“For students who dislike studying in Sterling’s oppressive reading rooms, the opening of CCL can’t come soon enough,” Stephanie Lynch ’08 said.

Many students said they expect the newly renovated facility will be a vast improvement.

“I have to admit, I never set foot in the old CCL when it was open during my freshman year,” Nicholas David ’09 said. “I heard that it was a soulless hell-hole filled with cubicles that sounded unnaturally isolated. Anyway, I’m excited for the new one, although it seems to be fairly isolated from all my favorite sources of caffeine.”

But the renovation team took students’ need for study-time nourishment into account when drawing up its plans. A new cafe — managed jointly by library staff, Yale University Dining Services and the Yale Sustainable Food Project — will be open for business during library hours: Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 12 to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 1:30 a.m., Karen Dougherty, director of communications for Yale University Dining Services, said.

“The cafe is a model for how retail food locations — on a college campus or in New Haven — can strive to be sustainable,” Yale Sustainable Food Project Director Melina Shannon-DiPietro said. “You’ll be able to get cappuccino and a scone in the morning and a good roast beef, egg salad or white bean sandwich at lunch.”

The cafe’s food options will be entirely different from those in the dining halls, she said. Although the cafe will not accept meal swipes, students will be able to use Flex dollars, Eli Bucks and bursar charging to pay for their food, Dougherty said.

The cafe expands the project beyond the dining hall and reflects the greater mission of YSFP, Shannon-DiPietro said. The cafe will feature biodegradable packaging, locally grown produce, Fair Trade coffee, organic eggs and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat, she said.

In addition, the menu items featured in the cafe reflect growing campus awareness for the well-being of local Connecticut agriculture and small businesses, said Tagan Engel, the chef in charge of the cafe menu.

Engel said some of the desserts and breakfast pastries will come from local bakeries throughout the state. The cafe staff will encourage these local businesses to use more organic ingredients in the products they supply to the cafe, Engel said.

Although many students said they are excited to try out the new cafe, others said they are worried that the novelty of the new space will affect their productivity.

“I am afraid that the library and cafe will be overcrowded and that it won’t be conducive to a good study environment,” Marisa Poverman ’10 said.

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