knox snooze

Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

Smoke if you got 'em

Some of the first things I noticed when I came to UTK were the smoking lounges in the Hodges Library. There were three of them, one each on the third, fourth, and fifth floors. They were tucked away in centrally located, but completely isolated rooms. The area around the rooms never smelled worse nor was it notably dirtier than any other part of the library. There were almost always at least three or four students in the smoking lounges, not surprising when the percentage of smokers in the student population is considered.

Yesterday, the lounges on the third and fourth floors were closed. There had been no prior notice, nor had there been any noteworthy discussion of it among fellow library patrons that I was aware of. In fact, among those with who I have discussed this at length, a Hodges Librarian, a graduate student in the Library Science program, and other library "rats" like myself, no one knew of this until yesterday. In fact, the librarian did not know until the matter was brought to his attention by those of us already discussing it. No public explanation has been made yet, either.

I called the Hodges Library and spoke with a friendly and helpful, yet poorly informed, librarian. She had only just heard about it as well, and was unsure who had made the final decision, and who had been consulted along the way. She thought that there might be an email notification regarding it, but she wasn't sure about that either. There was no such email.

So I emailed Barbara Dewey, the Dean of Libraries at UTK. In spite of a hasty spelling error in my subject line (no, I don't know where "Hidges" library is), Ms. Dewey replied to my email very promptly this morning. Her response was, essentially, that the closure of the lounges was part of a larger and longer term plan "to address student and faculty concerns expressed to me and the administration about the environment in Hodges Library as well as to increase usable group study rooms."

I can appreciate the motivation behind these closures, even though I disagree with them. My biggest concern, however, is the manner in which this was carried out. Dean Dewey said this plan was "reviewed" by more than one committee, including the Dean's Student Advisory Committee. Did it not occur to anyone along the way that some sort of invitation of public opinion should be made, at the very least apprising the library patrons in general of these significant changes? I wonder if the Library's Diversity Committee was consulted.

Moreover, what consideration was given to how this would influence who uses the library and how often it is used? Dean Dewey cited a desire to "increase usable group study rooms" as part of the reasoning for the smoking lounge closure. I support this desire. To that end, I would like to see rooms that can be used by those who want to smoke and those who do not. A smoking lounge is available to all students who would like to study in relative privacy, not only to those who smoke. A non-smoking area, however, is available only to non-smokers.

Dean Dewey is misguided if she thinks that these closures will change the smoking habits of students. She should, however, consider how it will likely change their study habits.
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