Cutting the Rug at Henry Ford College Eshleman Library

New carpet in Henry Ford College Eshleman Library photo by Ali Seblini
New carpet in Henry Ford College Eshleman Library photo by Ali Seblini

A large-scale project to replace the Eshleman Library carpet has recently concluded. The carpet was in need of replacement for a long time before this. It was scattered with stains, buckling, and tears that had to be covered with duct tape. According to the Director of Library and Academic Support Services, Dr. Kate Harger, these were the conditions of the carpet years before she joined the library staff in 2019.

According to the Director of Facilities, Reuben Brukley, the replacement of the entire library carpet presented many challenges. The library contained books, shelves, and furniture that all needed to be removed before the replacement could begin, which took around six weeks to do. “The existing carpet must be removed and the underflooring prepped and re-finished before the new carpet can be installed. So, there is a significant amount of architectural planning and preparation in developing a bid specification for a project of this scope, which is time consuming,” said Brukley.

The planning for this project began back in August of 2021. A plan for temporarily relocating books and furniture was complete by April of 2022, allowing the work to go out to a general contractor who could get the project started. After the bidding process, Purchasing and Facilities settled on a contractor. Construction began in August 2022 and concluded in the same month.

Throughout the duration of the carpet replacement on the first floor, students were unable to access the library. As a result, a “pop-up” library was put into place by the staff. It was available in the Learning Lab on the second floor of building A and could easily be seen as soon as one entered. The “pop-up” library consisted of shelves of books and library staff to assist students. “We wanted to have some kind of a face to face presence for people while we couldn’t help them in building B,” said Dr. Harger. Once the installation of the new carpet was finished on the first floor, the “pop-up” library was taken back down, as there was no longer any use for it.

One idea in mind for the future of the library is the addition of more study rooms. “We’d like to maybe add more study rooms, if that’s possible, down the road and just to continue to evolve as our users evolve,” said Dr. Harger.

The digital age has had an effect on the methods of accessing library resources. The library is slowly moving more materials and resources to its online databases. Dr. Harger mentioned, “Over the past 20-30 years, we’ve introduced a lot of databases and that’s really how students access information now.”

However, there will always be services and resources that the library will offer in person. One of these main resources is space and an environment to study in. With the hopes of implementing more study rooms, as well as the transition into online databases, the space within the Eshleman library is mostly going to be used as a space for students to work on assignments, whether it be together or independently. The second floor of the library is a silent area in which students will be able to focus on work without distractions.

Other services that the library offers include assistance with information literacy. Also, the Writing Center, which is managed by the writing faculty, is located within the library. In combination, these two services can be a powerful resource for students to help them when writing papers, “A lot of what we do is information literacy instruction. Our librarians partner with classroom faculty to go into classes that have research assignments and show those students how to access the library databases,” said Dr. Harger. “It’s kind of a two part process. So the librarians help you find the information and the writing center helps you with the writing mechanics.”

Additionally, the library hosts community events. The library has a relationship with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), in which it collects donations for them and, several times a year, the association uses these donations and hosts a large community book sale at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center. In fact, one of these book sales was just hosted a couple weeks ago. When it comes to the profits made from the book sales, the AAUW uses them for scholarships for students. “The things that we don’t want or other people don’t want can still find a home and those profits then benefit our students,” said Dr. Harger.

Another event, called the “Human Library,” is hosted by the library and coordinated by library faculty member Theresa Betts. In this event, the library solicits volunteers, and these volunteers are people someone can “check out.” The idea is that instead of reading a story from a book, you get to hear it from a human instead. The event is pretty popular. “If you’re interested in someone’s story, and you want to hear that person’s story, then you can check out that person and sit with them and interact with them,” said Dr. Harger.

Brendon Vincent is a library associate as well as a former student at Henry Ford College. “When I was a student, from 2016 to 2018, the library was an invaluable resource. It provided me resources I didn’t have at home, mainly being a quiet place to study with computer access,” said Vincent. “It’s important to see how the space has been updated and improved through the years, with the newest update to our physical presence being the new carpet. Our digital resources have gotten better and easier to use too.”

“I think what I like best about the HFC Library is the community here that we serve, as well as the student workers,” said Dr. Harger, “The students that I work with here are hands down the best students I’ve ever worked with in my entire career.”

Dr. Harger began her undergraduate work at Hope College, believing she was going to be an attorney or physician. However, she changed her mind after scoring a student worker job in the library. In her last two years at the college, she worked in the library as a student. Dr. Harger had a mentor whom she worked with who was both a librarian and attorney. So she asked her mentor for advice, telling her that she was planning on becoming an attorney, but she really loved libraries. Her mentor suggested that she study paralegal for a year and make her decision after, which Dr. Harger ended up doing. In the end, she didn’t enjoy paralegal and chose to go to school to become a librarian. “I don’t know that I would have if I didn’t get that student job, but it just so happens that that’s where they needed student help. And so they assigned me to the library and I loved it,” said Dr. Harger.

For any students looking for a place to volunteer or work at, the Eshleman library is open. “Most of our workforce is students,” said Dr. Harger.

It’s important to spread the word of the resources that the Eshleman Library has to offer. “Students aren’t always aware of what we offer,” said Dr. Harger. “We are a commuter campus. Students can’t go to class and just pop back to their dorm room to study. So we are offering space. As much as we’re offering services or resources, we’re offering physical space to students.”