Thursday, September 25, 2008

Virginia Tech: Stuck in the Past

Sometimes something shocks and annoys you so much, you just have to blog about it. That's why I'm going against Virginia Tech's "Invent the Future" motto to tell about one way the school is "Stuck in the Past."

Yesterday, I was doing my graduate teaching assistant duty by going to my hours at the CommLab, over in the Newman Library on the Virginia Tech campus. Students never come to get help with their speaking abilities, but I have to be here anyway. Heck, they pay me for it (sort of).

Anyway, when I arrived to the CommLab, I was parched. A fruit-filled, ice-cold smoothie came to mind first, but I would've settled for a crisp, clean bottle of water or even a room-temperature Diet Coke (hey, I was desperate). However, after searching every nook and cranny of the first floor, all I could find were water fountains with some strange green mold growing around the water-dispensing hole. Besides, I don't know what nasty undergraduate drooled there before I came along, so I just make it a rule not to drink out of public water fountains.

I was completely appalled when I looked at the library map in the CommLab and couldn't find a single vendor or vending machine located there. I figured, heck, they probably just didn't list them on the map. So I call the circulation desk.

Me: Hi, I'm on the first floor, and I can't find anywhere to get a drink. Are there any vending machines or anything elsewhere?

Circulation Guy: Uh, no, sorry, there aren't actually.

Me: Seriously?

Circulation Guy: Yeah, sorry.

Me: Interesting... well, uh, thanks... I guess.

Now I rarely knock Virginia Tech in favor of my undergraduate alma mater, Marshall. They are both wonderful institutions in their own right, but I have to just come right out and say it in the plainest way possible regarding Virginia Tech's library — It sucks. Newman Library completely blows.

At Marshall, the John Deaver Drinko Library was amazing. Let's compare:

Here is Drinko Library in all its glory. Yeah, that's a Starbucks attached to it on your bottom-left side. And a 24-hour, computered-out (including Macs), study center. Plus, an awesome glass tower right in the middle that leads up to an impressive theater (and computing services for the university) on the top floor. The library is stocked with lots of good resources, a law library (even though there's no law school), and even a great lounge surrounded by hundreds of current periodicals. Oh, yeah, and they have individual study and meeting rooms all over the place that you can use and/or reserve.

Now, here we have the Newman Library at Virginia Tech. It's a boring, though Hokie-stone, building with no Starbucks, or anything cool at all, attached to it. Now, I'm sure there's a Mac in here somewhere, but I've yet to find it. In fact, I have yet to find anything useful in this library. It just seems stuffy, unorganized and dingy compared to the contemporary, clean, quick-access-to-everything feel Drinko has. And books? Oh yeah, they have books, and they have lots of them. If you're an engineer or an architect. Good luck finding more than two or three books written in this century about public relations, journalism or art, for example. I hear there are plans to put a coffee shop down here on the first floor of Newman soon, but until they figure it out, they have the exits blocked off. Yeah, that's right. You can't even exit the freaking building. You have to go to the second floor to leave because there's a barricade preventing you from leaving out the main entrance that we all used just last semester. I kept hoping there would be a fire so I could smash out the windows and go out the front of the first floor anyway. So, I suppose they are at least realizing how badly this library sucks and trying to make some changes of some sort — I'm not sure exactly what, but as I sat in CommLab trying to get something productive done, there was constant drilling. Don't construction workers go home before 6 p.m.? HEY! YOU! THIS IS A LIBRARY! SHHH!

I can't seem to find library rankings of any kind online, so if you know of a site or an organization that does that sort of thing, let me know. I have been told anecdotally, though, that VT's library is the worst in the ACC. Ouch. That's pretty bad for a university that's consistently in the top 30 public universities in America and is known as a research institution.

All in all, VT is a great place, and it's even better I think for graduate students with all of the focus on research that is done here. However, the library really leaves a lot to be desired, and I miss Drinko (and many other things about Marshall) every time I come here.

I have to end now, I couldn't charge my laptop's battery in Newman because my plug wouldn't fit... some douchebag painted over the outlet.

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