The community oriented future for Goldfarb and Farber

March 23, 2018

As a central hub for innovation and studying, Goldfarb Library and Farber Study Hall are at the center of campus, allowing students to study late into the night and collaborate with classmates. Matthew Sheehy, the University Librarian for Brandeis, finds the term of library evolving in his eyes.

“The library has always been a place that traditionally is a place for knowledge. It’s been a gatekeeper: we pay for the books, we teach you how to use the resources,” said Sheehy. “With this whole change in the world of information—the internet age—we’re no longer a gatekeeper. I see the library more as a place for inviting … creativity and experiential learning. We give people the opportunity for them to learn and … experiment. [The library is] one of the few spaces on campus where people can get together as a community.” The library has been undergoing renovations, both organizational, reparative and cosmetic. Sheehy hopes the physical space of the library will serve not only as a study space but will help foster creativity and community.

Goldfarb Library was built in the 1950s and Farber Study Hall was built in the 1970s. There have been no renovations since then, causing a few major issues that Sheehy and the rest of the library staff have tackled in recent years. One of the key issues, according to Sheehy, is leaks. “There are just so many leaks in the roof,” he said. “Whenever it rains, we have a list of spots that we check to see if there’s any leaking from the roof.”

The area most affected is the archives and special collections area of the library, located under the main plaza outside the library. With allocated funds, over the summer, Facilities Services tore up, rebricked and recoated the entirety of the plaza, preventing leaks from springing up during rain and protecting the books. “I have to give facilities a lot of respect for pulling all that up, realizing it was worse than it was, and committing to making it right,” said Sheehy.

Besides external fixes, parts of the library are getting a renovation. During winter break, all of Goldfarb 1 was repainted. “I couldn’t stand the ugly yellow color of the walls anymore. I’ve very pleased with the painters’ choice of color,” said Sheehy. Along with the paint job, the common area was recarpeted and over 100 new chairs were added on Farber 1 and Goldfarb 1. One of the other recent additions to the library is the the Gilter Richman Corner, on Farber 1, an area with a new leather couch to allow for conversation and comfort.

In the coming years, the library staff is looking to create a faculty space, somewhere for professors and other staff to come work and have more access to the library’s resources.

“People should feel comfortable at the library,” Sheehy said. “So I want to develop the space thoughtfully to provide more access for students and to be more accomodating of them.” Events that take place in the library throughout the academic year, such as the Library Party and therapy dogs who come during finals, further promote Sheehy’s vision of a community feel in the library.

Sheehy also has plans to make part of the library 24/7. During the shortened hours on Fridays and Saturdays, students are often forced to relocate to other parts of campus to work. “It’s honestly a staffing issue,” explained Sheehy. After-hours, it is student workers who keep the library open. “We don’t want to place such a heavy burden on students while they’re trying to get a good education. It would be too much stress on them to run the library all night. It is really the students that run the library, with one or two librarians also present.” The staff is trying to open the library at 7:30 a.m., instead of 8:30, extending its weekend hours to 10 p.m. and trying to keep Farber open 24/7.

Sheehy is also hoping to renovate the Multimedia Viewing and Screening area near the side entrance of Goldfarb. The library staff is working on digitizing the CDs, DVDs and VHS videos within the library’s collection for professors, while promoting the space to students as another resource for movies and music.

Another major project that Sheehy wants to undertake is adding more artwork to the walls of the building. “I always think that artwork helps make spaces more comfortable and welcoming,” said Sheehy. “We’ve been taking photos from the archives and blowing them up and hanging them up.” The photos in the standing study corner near the printers were taken from the archives, and voted on by students. All the artwork that is seen in the library is either from the library’s archives or the Rose Art Museum, explained Sheehy.

Prior to his appointment as University Librarian, Sheehy was the Associate University Librarian for Collections and served as Interim University Librarian for three months after John Unsworth stepped down from this role. Following a national search for a new University Librarian, Sheehy was officially appointed in November.

Being a librarian was not Sheehy’s intention when he was younger. He tried to make a living as a professional musician, while working as a biomedical technician on the side to pay the bills. After deciding to go back to graduate school to continue his music education, Sheehy met two influential musical librarians that inspired him to pursue the career. “I’ll admit, I originally did not think of librarians as a real profession,” said Sheehy, “and look where we are now.”

Students can often find Sheehy hanging around the Information and Borrowing Desk, one his favorite spots on campus. “While I’m oftentimes very productive in my office,” said Sheehy, “it’s really isolated. So, I very often go down to the Information and Borrowing Desk. I stand there, much to the staff’s dismay, asking questions and getting in their way. I just really like to see the space used.”

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