Author Archives: Jonathan Cox

Renewing laptop computers at Cabell Library

Can someone please post detailed rules about loaning and renewing computers? I know the basic rules of one a day loan and one renewal. However, it seems everytime I make a trip to renew the computer, there is a new rule. This time it was “no renewal when the computer being renewed is the only one or last one available”. Really? really? I was still working on that computer! I have a right to my one renewal regardless if it’s the only one or not. I know I have to share it with everyone else and I don’t mind doing that… after my time is up. So please someone, for my sanity, put up clear and concise rules that I’ll be happy to follow.

from: a professional student

Teresa Doherty, Head of Circulation and Information Services, replies…

As you are aware, laptops are in very high demand in Cabell Library, and our students compete for this limited resource. We recently reviewed our usage statistics, and with input from students, we have changed our check-out procedures to make them available to more students. There is no longer a restriction of one laptop loan per day, and there is no longer an automatic renewal option for laptop loans. Library staff are allowed to make an exception for a requested renewal when there are other laptops available for loan. However, if the laptop you are returning is the only one that can be offered to other patrons, you will not be allowed to renew it. The laptop check-out webpage and check-out privileges webpage will be updated to reflect this change.

VCU Libraries is pleased to partner with Technology Services to offer laptops to our students. Earlier this semester, the oldest laptops, with which we started the pilot loan program more than five years ago, were replaced with newer models. Additional older laptops will be replaced over the summer. If you have questions about our technology loans, including laptops, headphones, headsets, iPads, e-readers and more, please feel free to contact me directly at

About security guards at Cabell Library

My friends and I were studying on the 4th floor at one of the large tables at around 7 pm. One of my friends put her head down to rest her eyes for a few minutes when one of the security guards (John) came by and woke her up and rudely told her that we are not allowed to sleep in the library and that she would need to leave if she wasn’t studying. We were all sitting at a single table and two of us were awake to watch all of our belongings so there was no risk of theft. Therefore, I don’t understand his reasoning for waking her up and speaking to us in such a manner. As students who spend the majority of their days studying, I feel that taking a 10 minute power nap is perfectly reasonable. If this is not an official library policy, then I feel that the security guards should be informed so that such instances do not occur again.

From: a graduate student

Jeanne Hammer, Assistant University Librarian for Administration and Policy Development, replies…

Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. You are correct that a nap while studying is perfectly reasonable. Our security officers for the evening shift and overnight hours are fairly new to Cabell Library and still learning. Clearly there is a misunderstanding about our Use of Library Facilities policy which does not prohibit sleeping, unless it somehow became disruptive. The security officer may have misinterpreted our concern that a sleeping student’s belongings are at risk of theft to mean that the library does not permit sleeping. We will clear up this misunderstanding.

Restrooms in Cabell Library

I am hesitant to give this suggestion, but it must be done. I love VCU libraries and spend most of my study time here. I think Cabell is great, but the restrooms are worse than most truck stops. In fact, the first floor bathrooms are the most befouled on campus (yes–even compared to the “facilities” in Shafer or the Commons). Granted, I can only speak for the ladies room, but the bathrooms are so disgusting they are often unusable and frequently lack paper products late in the evening. Usually, the basement and 4th floor toilets are usable. I have never experienced this problem at the MCV library. Thank you for providing 24 hr service; it truly makes a difference.

From: a professional student

Jeanne Hammer, Assistant University Librarian for Administration and Policy Development replies…

Thank you for bringing to our attention that the restrooms need additional attention in the evening hours. We will work with the new contract housekeeping company and the VCU contract administrator to increase the level of service between the day shift and the night shift cleaning.

Request for extended library hours

MAKE IT 24/7!!!

From: an undergraduate student

Mary Ellen Spencer, Head of Research and Instructional Services, replies…

I’m happy to let you know that VCU Libraries will expand its around-the-clock service at James Branch Cabell Library beginning March 18. Learn more about this new service by reading Library News. And thank you for posting your suggestion to our blog!

Music at the library

To whom it may concern, I find that it shows a remarkable lack of foresight to schedule singing in a university library at any point in time.

From: an undergraduate student

Dennis T. Clark, Associate University Librarian for Public Services, replies…

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your need to use library spaces for quiet study — it is one of our most important offerings. However, as part of our weeks-long exhibit, we wanted to incorporate a live-performance, and tie it into Valentine’s Day. Our fabulous musicians from the School of the Arts, Gianna Barone and Denver Walker, gave wonderful performances. In order to keep any distractions at a minimum, we placed the performance in our lobby (our version of Grand Central Station) and scheduled during a lunch hour, when we have the most traffic. We often use that same space for visual and interactive art exhibits, so it seemed like the perfect place for the performing arts.

You’ll be happy to know that we don’t often have live music in the library — this may be a first. I’m very glad that you are an active library user and encourage your comments on other library events in the future.

Need for quiet study space at Cabell Library

For the love of god, please give students like myself a QUIET place to study! It is beyond frustrating that our tuition is continually hiked, but the heart of our University (or any university)-our library-is way underfunded and lacking space. Yes, I realize it’s “next on the list” after the new classroom building has reached significant progress. But when will that be?? This is an ongoing problem that’s been around since I transferred to VCU over three years ago. This is nothing new. What’s the point of building more classrooms if there’s no place to study what we learn in the classroom, in peace and quiet? I’m well aware that there’s a “silent” fourth floor. But when you’re sitting down for an extended period of time up there, it’s not all that silent. Phones go off, people whisper loudly, and sometimes they’ll just talk outright. The fourth floor is now what the third floor used to be. Not to mention, on any given day it’s mostly full. Most students, such as myself, do not live alone and cannot have real peace and quiet at home. This is unfair to those of us who spend just as much time studying as we do in the classroom (if not way more), and we’re tired of hearing excuses from the administration. Furthermore, it’s infuriating that when VCU did spend our tuition dollars on the library, they built the noisiest second floor in library history. Getting work done there is fruitless; it has become a hub for bombastic socializing, and it is essentially now just an extension of the Commons. Even better, VCU put the money into installing shiny new sliding doors in the entrances. I’ve been here for awhile so I know that at any given time one of the old doors was broken, but on either side there were still three or four more doors. Our fancy new sliding doors went out of order at the beginning of the semester and an entire half of the library entrance was blocked off! Ridiculous. I’m graduating in December, and I love the people of this school with all my heart. But it’s infuriating that a school with such academic potential as VCU cares so little about the sacred and central place to all universities: the library.

From: an undergraduate student

Dennis T. Clark, Associate University Librarian for Public Services, replies…

Thank you for taking the time to give your feedback on the important issue of quiet study space in the Cabell library. First, we appreciate your concern about the relative lack of quiet study. As you note, we have attempted to “tier” the library floors from least quiet (1st) to silent (4th). Invariably, noise — electronic and otherwise — creeps onto even the silent floor. We do take your concern seriously and will be increasing our security patrol of the 4th floor in order to deter inappropriate noise.

Likewise, I appreciate your concern about the 2nd floor socializing. That floor is intentionally collaborative (and therefore noisy) because VCU students need places for group work, and we worked hard to meet those needs. Although it may seem like overt socializing, we know from experience that floor is heavily used for academic work. In short, we are extremely sympathetic.

Regarding the doors: We are well aware that the doors have had some rough spots in their first few weeks of operation. We use them ourselves! It’s frustrating, though not unexpected with a new installation. We’ll keep working to reduce incidents such as the one you describe. We do hear from many students and faculty how much they appreciate the change from the previous entryway doors.

Interestingly, we had library visitors from another Virginia university a few weeks ago. Those folks commented on how every inch of space was in use, due to the high volume of visits in ration to the extremely limited amount of library space per student. This challenge will continue until funds are appropriated to construct another library building. Until then, please know that we work daily in trying to preserve a reasonable balance between quiet and noisy library work. And again, thank you for your thoughts.

Noise in the Cabell Library book stacks

Some book re-shelvers have no consideration of how much noise they make. I understand it’s hard to move around books without making any noise, but there’s a huge difference between slamming the books around and placing them gently. Some of us are here to study and the noise makes a huge difference for us. Everyone, whether they work here or are studying here, needs to be more conscientious about themselves.

From: a graduate student

Patricia Selinger, Head of Preservation, replies…

It’s true that reshelving can sometimes be a noisy task. We have a number of students working in the stacks and many of them are new to VCU this semester. We will be sure to communicate that care must be taken to handle books correctly and be conscientious of those studying. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Request for SPSS software on library computers

There is a huge need to install SPSS software in the ONLY FOUR computers in Graduate study room 4th floor. Thanks

From: a graduate student

Jimmy Ghaphery, Head of Library Information Systems, replies…

Thank you for the suggestion regarding SPSS.

We are working to have SPSS available on all of the library computers in partnership with Technology Services. This Fall we have successfully deployed SAS, Mathematica, and JMP to all of the library computers as virtual applications. The current issue with SPSS revolves around licensing, which is preventing us from deploying SPSS as a virtual application. SPSS is available for download onto individual machines.

Safety concerns on a rainy day

Umbrella wet bags at the entrance would be very beneficial and will prevent the floor from being very slippery.

From: an undergraduate student

Jeanne Hammer, Assistant University Librarian for Administration and Policy Development replies…

Thank you for the suggestion about umbrella wet bags. We will order two holders – one for each exterior door – and a supply of the bags. Although our operating budget for supplies and such is quite limited, VCU’s office supply contract does offer a deep discount on the retail price. The bags will be available as soon as possible, especially on rainy days.

Noise on the 4th floor of Cabell Library

I am taking classes this summer. I am in the library on the 4th floor almost every day. Without fail, staff is continuously coming out of the offices and being very disrespectful of the 4th floor policy of no talking. They continue to have loud group discussions around the elevators. I have also noticed that it is also contractors. Now I want nothing more than for our library to get better and provide better facilities for students, but it is unacceptable for staff and faculty to disrupt students studying and working towards their future goals. It is very distracting and uncalled for.

From: an undergraduate student

Dennis Clark, Associate University Librarian for Public Services, replies…

Thank you for taking the time to send your comment to the Libraries’ Suggestion Blog. You’re right to remind library staff that we sometimes forget the study space guidelines that govern the use of the fourth floor at Cabell Library. Please know that I will share your comments with the staff who work here. If you encounter this problem in the future, please alert library staff at the nearest service desk for assistance. If you do not receive excellent service, don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

We understand that quiet study space is at a premium, and your library experience is important to us. I appreciate your blog post and hope you will continue to send your comments and suggestions.