Food allowed in Bass Library

Food is now allowed in Bass Library, and one reporter looks to see if that's led to any major changes.
Food is now allowed in Bass Library, and one reporter looks to see if that's led to any major changes. Photo by Sharon Yin.

Signs prohibiting food and beverages in Bass Library came down on Oct. 3, but few students are capitalizing on the change.

Food and drink have been allowed in Bass for nearly a month, a result of a plan put in motion by University Librarian Susan Gibbons soon after she assumed the post in May. No regulations currently govern what food students can bring into Bass, Gibbons said, adding that she believes the Yale community can make proper judgments about what would be appropriate within the library. She added that if the policy is abused, Bass will revert to forbidding food and beverages because it would be a “futile endeavor” to police appropriate types of food.

Though food and beverages only became allowed in Bass in early October, Gibbons said students still brought food and drink into the library prior to the rule change. The old system had consistency issues as well, she said.

“Backpacks aren’t checked going in, but they are checked going out, so students had to leave food and drink in the library,” Gibbons said. “We can see students sneaking food in either way … Let’s acknowledge the fact that they want to bring in food and drink and deal with the reality.”

Gibbons said allowing food in Bass Library will create more consistency between the café and study area. Modern libraries function not only as study spaces, she said, but also as gathering spots — with food constituting a significant part of that experience.

“It seemed incongruous to have a café physically in the Bass Library, but then to not allow the food and drink in the Bass Library,” Gibbons said.

Before food and drink were allowed in Bass, Gibbons said library administrators had to address three main topics: waste disposal, pest control and custodial work. Preparations for the rule change began over the summer when a “proactive pest control” service was installed, appropriate trash and recycling receptacles were placed throughout Bass, and a daily cleaning schedule was established with the custodial staff.

The cleaning procedures seem to be working so far, Gibbons said. The library’s custodians have not reported any complaints, she said, and only one piece of food trash has been found in the Bass stacks.

Gibbons said she is unsure whether the new policy will significantly increase the use of the Bass Library, as it already is a popular study destination. But she hopes the new food and drink rule will reduce overcrowding in Bass’s Thain Family Café, she added.

Few students are aware of the change in the library’s food and drink policy, and the library never released an official announcement about the change. Only one of seven students interviewed had heard of the new rule, though all thought the updated policy was more convenient.

Caroline Bindsled, an exchange student from Denmark, heard about the policy last week from a security officer. She said she likes the policy, which allows her to now bring coffee into Bass while she studies.

But other students, such as Glorianna Tillemann-Dick ’14, said they are unsure whether they will take advantage of the looser library regulations.

“I’m too nervous of being forgetful and somehow harming one of the books,” Tillemann-Dick said. “But it’s nice to know that if I have a drink or something I can finish quickly, I can bring it in.”

Trang Nguyen ’13 said she thinks students have enough common sense to eat appropriate foods in Bass, noting that her classmates routinely bring food to residential college libraries. Still, Nguyen said she thinks some areas of Bass should not allow food, such as those that house expensive equipment.

Gibbons said those who opposed the new food and drink policy thought it would endanger the library’s collections, but said she disagrees with this view. Borrowed books are routinely exposed to food and drinks, Gibbons said, because students can bring them to coffee shops and other locations. With its valuable book collection, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is a “completely different story,” she added.

The policy also does not extend to Sterling Memorial Library, said Danilo Galindo, who works there as a security guard. He added that he has needed to tell a few students that food is only permitted in Bass. Three Bass security guards declined to comment.

Thain Family Café is open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

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