Category Archives: General Library Suggestions

Hours at Tompkins-McCaw Library

I really feel that the TML hours should be extended to a later time, at least until midnight. Many students on the MCV campus complain that the library closes at 9 pm and think that it should be open longer, just like Hunton. Now that the 2nd floor has been renovated and a lot of students are using it to study, it would benefit a lot of us on the MCV campus. The second floor of TML is the only place on the MCV campus that is large, open, and quiet. Although CIRC and Sanger are open 24/7, they do not have an open environment and are just full of cubicles, which is not very welcoming. Hunton is more open, but there are often people there who are talking; it is not always a quiet environment. All of these are reasons why I feel that keeping TML open longer would benefit medical students such as myself and everyone one else on the MCV campus.

From: a first professional student

Teresa Knott, Director of Tompkins-McCaw Library, replies…

Thank you for your suggestion.  Our Graduate Student Advisory Council has very strongly advocated this position as well.  Among the Tompkins-McCaw Library (TML) and VCU Libraries administration, we have begun to discuss options for how we would execute and fund extending the hours at TML.  In the next year, I believe that we will be able to do this.  We will likely start with a one-year pilot of extended hours where we assess the project at intervals.  There are many logistics to work out, but it is possible that we will launch the one-year pilot in early 2013.
In the meantime, the TML Learning Center @ Hunton and Hunton Hall are open later.  Also, the James Branch Cabell Library has a 24/5 schedule where the building opens Sunday at 10:00 AM and closes Friday at 10:00 PM.  As a graduate or professional student, you are entitled to use the John Mapp Graduate Study and Reading Room at Cabell, lcated on the fourth floor. To have access, you would need to ask the staff at the Circulation desk to add your identification card information to the access system.

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.

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!

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.

Requesting extended hours for the Cabell Library

The hours of operation of the VCU Libraries are very lacking for the size of the University. There seems to be an assumption that students are not looking to do homework during the weekend. This is simply not true. Many students are limited by these hours. While students are able to do their homework at home during the weekend evening hours, they are not able to do research. As the largest research university in Virginia, I believe that this is stunting the growth of student research. These hours are only convenient for students who have the late mornings and afternoons free to study. It completely disregards the needs of students who have jobs or other obligations. The increase in tuition should lead to an increase of resources available to students, and increased library hours would benefit all students on both campuses. It would also show that VCU recognizes the hard and demanding work of their students, and the students’ work ethic and commitment to their education. The current hours are impractical, and frankly, a little insulting. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

From: an undergraduate student

“Dong…. dong… ‘Hello. This is a reminder that Cabell library will be closing in twenty minutes. Please take any items you wish to check out to the…'” This is a sound I hear about three-five times a week. As a busy undergraduate student at VCU, I find myself spending more and more time at Cabell library. The updated second floor is great; it has ample amount of room to study in a comfortable and clean setting. I’ve always thought the third and fourth floor noise levels were helpful, and I often find myself on the third floor busily typing until late at night. But why is it that I’m forced to stop my flow of work at 2AM? Cabell library provides reliable internet to the student body. It has dozens of black and white and color printers. If you need to copy notes or other documents, you can utilize the copy machine at a small fee. And as I mentioned earlier, the new second floor is an ideal place to work on group collaborations. There are no televisions. No roommates to bring over loud friends. No food to cook. No pets to steal your attention. No bedroom to clean. No showers to take. Essentially, Cabell library is free of any distractions that would otherwise inhibit you from getting your work done. But at 2AM, this is lost. Sure, during exam weeks Cabell runs the “Library Lite All Nite” hours, in which the facility is open 24/7. But don’t you think it’s important to have this option throughout the school year? Would it really break the bank to have the library open for five more hours each day? With the economy today, surely there would be people willing to take on a shift at a second job. Perhaps students receiving Financial Aid could man the front desk as Work Study. Current safety measures could still apply; all IDs are checked after 10PM and security guards patrol all floors. If anything, safety is compromised when students leave the library at 2AM (often carrying objects of value such as laptops, purses, I-pods, etc) to walk back home or to search for another place to continue their work. I’d like to ask Cabell Library and the VCU community to consider extending the library hours to 24/7 throughout the regular school year. For students like me… who have jobs that require working late hours, noisy roommates, and no internet at home. I know that it would definitely have a positive impact on my studies and ultimately, on my GPA. VCU does want their students to succeed, right?

from: an undergraduate student

John Ulmschneider, University Librarian, replies…

We often hear from students about longer building hours for Cabell Library, and we really do understand how important access to the library can be for students. Cabell Library’s hours are already among the longest for public institutions of higher education in Virginia, but increasingly, students tell us that it’s just not enough for their busy schedules. The popularity and use of the new study spaces in Cabell Library have been off the charts, and we know that students would be there around the clock if they could.

As you know, State funding for the entire University has contracted dramatically over the past three years. Every unit has had to reduce its expenditures, including the VCU Libraries. We’ve tried to minimize the impact on students — regular building hours have not been affected, and 24-hour service at the end of the semester remains in place — but we simply cannot fund an expansion of library hours with our current funding. In fact, other services we’ve reduced have a higher need than round-the-clock access right now if funding becomes available: for example, hours for Media and Reserve Services on the 3rd floor, or Special Collections and Archives on the 4th floor. We need first to ensure that students have access to these kinds of core, basic services before we can turn our attention to a 24-hour library.

We hope that as the University’s financial picture improves, funding might become available to improve the library situation as well. Providing round-the-clock, 24-hour access remains a high priority and an important goal for the VCU Libraries. We’re hopeful that in coming years we can provide that level of service to our students.

Thank you for taking time to write to us about library hours. Feel free to contact me directly at if you’d like to talk more about library hours, or about any library issue.

Cell Phone Use in Cabell Library

Greetings, I asked the person at the Reference Desk today to enforce the cell phone policy in the computer area (as posted) and he replied that those signs are about to be taken down. Big mistake that could result in physical violence. So not only will we continue to see people eating from pizza boxes and dinner plates complete with forks while seated at computers, we will now have to put up with loud cell phone conversations? My bachelors and masters are from larger universities, so I have a point of reference from which to judge. Next, cigarette ashtrays to each computer station and study desk in the library?

From: a graduate student

Pat Flanagan, Associate University Librarian for Public Services replies…

I am glad you asked for help at the reference desk and were told that our policy regarding cell phones has indeed changed. I’m also sorry that some pre-existing
signs remained in place. They should have been removed when the new signs were posted and we have now taken them down.

I understand your concern about noise levels, and appreciate your sharing them with us. Cabell Library attracts thousands of students each day, sometimes well in excess of 11,000 per day at the height of the semester. This is far more traffic than the building received when it opened in 1975 to support a student population of only 16,000 – half today’s number.

The large numbers of students using the library do create noise issues. These issues won’t be fully resolved until new library space can be added on the Monroe Park Campus. As a result, students have asked that we create more quiet space. Just this summer we did so, by making both the 3rd and 4th floors quiet study areas. The 4th floor is the “silent” floor, where even texting or use of headphones is not permitted in order to reduce stray noise that might be distracting to those studying. If you are seeking a quiet study environment, these are the floors for you. And, because you are a graduate student, you can also ask the Circulation Desk staff for access to the John Mapp Graduate Study and Reading Room on the 4th floor (just adjacent to the Special Collections and Archives Department). The Mapp Room includes computer access, as well as seating and study tables.

Conversely, for the 1st and 2nd floors we have followed the lead of a number of university libraries that have relaxed their cell phone policies. Cabell’s 1st and 2nd
floors are intended for collaborative activity that includes conversation. Our signage indicates, however, that cell phone use that is not disruptive is permissible. If a cell phone conversation exceeds normal conversational tones, please do alert security
or service desk staff who will help resolve the situation. We will also remind 1st floor service desk staff that loud cell phone conversations are not permitted.

Thank you again for bringing your concern to me. Your experience using the library is extremely important to us.

Concerns about Library Services

It is understandable that the current economic condition is affecting everything. Nevertheless our success and privileges of using school resources should not be limited. I have noticed that the library hours have been cut compared to last semester. Cabell library is one of those buildings that is being used by more students than any other once around the campus. long lines to check out books, no reference assistants after 8 which is the time even before some evening classes end. Where should we go for assistance? The quality of service has decreased significantly since last semester. Most of the staff at the library is also not as friendly as I recall them to be (eventhough insignificant), it would be nice to have the staff help us with a good attitude. This is something not only me but many of my fellow students share and we would like to suggest a review of how many people use the library each day from previous statistics and evaluate if it is actually fair to limit hour and resources. Last but not least I would like to thank you for your help.

From: an undergraduate student

Patricia Flanagan, Associate University Librarian for Public Services replies…

Thank you very much for taking the time to let us know about your concerns. Although we have had to make some changes, we have focused on preserving those things that students have told us are most important to them: regular building hours and good library collections. For example, Cabell Library hours during the week have not been changed: Cabell will still open 7:30am weekdays, and close at 2am Sunday – Thursday, just like last year. There are some small changes on Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday, saving about 8 hours overall, the length of a worker’s shift. And there are changes in hours and services at our service points in Cabell Library. But library hours during the week, a very important resource for students, are not affected.

The University is working hard to make the best possible decisions for VCU students to ensure that the instructional mission of the University is met. As a result, students will continue to see access to the instructors, classes, and other support they need to meet their academic goals. An important factor in making decisions has been University support for the libraries work in acquiring the print and electronic books, journals, data resources, databases, multimedia, and other materials that students and faculty need for their academic work. This isn’t the case at many other institutions in Virginia and elsewhere, and it’s good that students here aren’t affected in that way.

The University has also been very supportive of efforts to make the best use of Cabell Library space, in order to provide students with the spaces, equipment, and furniture they need to work productively while in the building. The wonderful improvements to the second floor, partially funded by the Office of the Provost and the Board of Visitors, include seven new group study rooms, white boards, large monitors, upgraded electrical and added outlets and lighting, and collaboration furniture. There have also been improvements to the fourth floor and an effort to develop more quiet study space students have requested on the third floor.

I very much regret that you have experienced unfriendliness from staff. You accurately observed that there are fewer staff handling the same large volume of people using Cabell Library, and while that can be stressful for staff, it’s important that you and your fellow students continue to have a good experience with staff help. I appreciate your bringing this observation to us, and assure you that I will follow up on it. I will be alerting Public Services managers of your comments (without your name) so they can be more aware of interactions taking place in their areas. Customer service is a top priority for us. I encourage you to contact me directly about any negative experiences you have had with as many specifics as possible so we can work to correct problems.

Thank you again for taking the time to articulate your concerns about service changes. We welcome student input and take the concerns very seriously as we make decisions. We all hope that the economy will improve so that we can reinstate services we know VCU students value.

Noise in the Basement Computer Lab

Is anything being done to keep the basement computer lab quiet? Obviously the signage and computer desktops aren’t doing their job. Why was the desk taken out of the computer lab? It seemed like when there were monitors in the lab, it was at least somewhat quiet. Every time I come down here to work, there are people on their cell phones, listening to music, and talking loudly. It is absolutely ridiculous that I have to listen to music on my iPod to block out THEIR noise while I work. Just last week there was almost a fight because one student told another to please whisper or take her conversation elsewhere- how are students supposed to respond to this?! It would be great if others would realize that this is an academic institution and not a restaurant or meeting place- people are trying to get work done!!! What is the library’s response to this? I know I could rent a laptop and go to the fourth floor, but the computer lab is more convenient, especially late night.

From: a graduate student

Jim Bostick, Director of User Services for VCU Technology Services replies…

It is disappointing that you are having these problems. Please know that you or any student can go to the Security Guard to request their assistance with disruptive students in this lab or anywhere in the library.

The lab in the basement of Cabell Library is managed by Technology Services. Over that last several years, with budgets contracting, but needs for technology support increasing, we made the decision that the money used to monitor the labs would be better used increasing support for classroom technology and the Help Desk. This move had the side effect of enabling us to put a small number of additional computers in this already cramped lab once the monitor’s station was removed.

In the long run, we are working with the VCU Libraries on their project to create a much improved and expanded Learning Commons space on the 2nd floor. Once completed, the B8 lab will be merged with current library computers and new computers in renovated space on the 2nd floor that will provide much improved student computing spaces.

Research assistance at Tompkins-McCaw Library

To Library Administration(Night time supervisor): As a current graduation student in medicine on the MCV Campus and a regular evening and weekend visitor to the the Tompkins-McCaw Library, I have a concern that the evening and weekend staff available are too busy and understaffed to assist me with my research needs. As a former student on the Academic Monroe Park Campus, I always had a hard time getting help from part-time desk workers. Are there any chances that Tompkins-McCaw will get more full-time staff in the evenings and weekends and not just part-time workers who are not trained as well to help me with me research needs. Thank you.
From: a graduate student

Shannon Jones, Head of Outreach Services at Tompkins-McCaw Library, responds…
Thanks for sharing your concerns about obtaining research assistance during the evenings and weekends at Tompkins-McCaw Library. We value your feedback and your comments are appreciated.

Tompkins-McCaw Library offers research assistance during our business service hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. During these hours, reference assistance is available by asking at the Service Desk or by appointment. This service is supplemented by one-on-one consultations via phone or email. To schedule an appointment for research assistance, contact Barbara Wright at 828-0622.

In addition to research services, TML offers a Library Liaison Program. I encourage you to contact the liaison for the School of Medicine to schedule a personal consultation. For more information about the liaison program and to identify the library liaison for your school, please visit our information page, or feel free to contact me at or 828-0626.

Thank you for your continued use of the VCU Libraries.

Large Format Printing at Tompkins-McCaw Library

I am very appreciative to have access to the large poster printer in the Media Department at Tompkins-McCaw Library. I have printed out several posters for conferences over the past few months and its been a great time and money saver. Unfortunately, I do have one complaint: both myself as well as several members of my staff have been treated rudely or spoken to in a condescending manner. I have been told to “Go to Kinko’s” or “We aren’t a print shop!” The lack of customer service offered by the gentleman or gentlemen that make the appointments is extremely unprofessional. Other than the rudeness of the Media Department staff, I love printing posters.
From: staff

Jodi Koste, Archivist, Tompkins-McCaw Library, replies….
Thanks for your comments about the large format printer at Tompkins-McCaw Library. We are pleased to learn that you value this service. We continue to work on improving our customer service here at the library, and hope you will notice a change when you next make an appointment to use our large format printer.