A librarian’s response to campus reading

Jian Chen’s guest column in the April 21 issue struck a chord with me and my fellow librarians. Like Jian, we wish there were more bookstores in the immediate campus area to promote reading and the joys of browsing. To fill this void, Jian proposed that the Main Library create an open-air lending library on the Quad or a bookstore-like branch on Green Street. In fact, there was a library Browsing Room in the Illini Union many years ago, but it was not sustainable.

I want to address a common misconception that people aren’t using campus libraries much anymore. It’s true that visits to physical libraries declined over the past decade at universities everywhere, because more scholarly resources became available online. But recently, our on-site usage began rising again. 

Thousands of students enter the Main Library every day. 

They come to read silently in the awe-inspiring ambiance of the Main Library Reference Reading Room (where visits are up 37 percent over last year), and to browse the well-lit shelves of the remodeled Social Sciences, Health & Education Library on the first floor. They come to enjoy the exhibits in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library on the third floor, pore over maps in the Map Library on the fourth floor, and explore our up-to-date focused book collections in literature, history, international studies, and classics.

They come to ask librarians for research help and reading recommendations. And don’t forget our other high-traffic libraries, including the Undergraduate Library and Grainger Engineering Library — both open 24/5 and more convenient for midnight readers than any local bookstore.

If you haven’t visited our campus libraries lately, please see what we have to offer!  You can find a directory of campus libraries at http://www.library.illinois.edu/services/find.php.

Sue Searing, Interim Associate Dean of Libraries for User Services. She can be reached at [email protected]