Opinion: The books of Ames Library are vastly underappreciated

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 28, 2022

A library is an understated sanctuary of knowledge, often forgotten about in today’s digital world. It can be one of the quietest places, with immaculate vibes that increase concentration without taking away from the comfort it provides of being surrounded by shelves of books. 

Sitting in a wooden chair while occasionally sipping on a coffee next to a broad window overlooking the quad is many students’ first choice when determining the optimal study spot to finish a paper or study for an exam. Especially during the fall months, the sight of IWU’s many trees changing color makes a trip to Ames Library the optimal decision as opposed to sitting in your dorm room.

Ames Library is arguably the crown jewel of IWU’s campus, complete with the recent addition of the Center for Engaged Learning and four floors worth of comfortable seating areas. That’s not to mention the iconic Bates Merwin Reading Room on the fourth floor complete with a revolving ladder and huge circular table you can sprawl all of your materials on and study for hours on end.  

While all of these benefits contribute to Ames’ identity, what really makes the space so special is the hundreds of books that are available and waiting to be read by faculty, students and staff. These books are the library’s most integral aspect, as without them, Ames wouldn’t be classified as a library in the first place.

The books possess immeasurable amounts of knowledge, and the experience of physically picking one out from its designated spot on the shelf is one that could never be replaced by technology’s powerful influence. 

Unfortunately, the majority of IWU students are lacking the experience of searching the shelves for their next read as many haven’t even checked out a book since they’ve set foot on campus. 

As a current senior, I never checked out a book until this week, which was at the request of a professor for a class. I was astounded that my first time in my four years checking out a library book was within my final six months before graduation. Although self-explanatory, I was unaware of how the book renting and return process even works until I had to experience myself. 

The shelves of books at Ames Library are underutilized and under appreciated. This may be a result of the heavily relied on MegaSearch System on the library website, which, while extremely convenient, relinquishes the need to check out a physical book. 

The Ames MegaSearch allows students and faculty to search books, films, articles and other media, just by looking up a keyword in the search engine. When logged into your IWU account, students are allowed free access to any of the results, even some resources that can be shipped from other college libraries within the state of Illinois. 

While the digital age has allowed us access to invaluable information at our fingertips, the importance of libraries continue to hold true in our ever-changing technological world. The preservation of books and writing in a physical form is integral to who we are as humans as it’s the foundation for our communication. 

The value of a physical book is no less than a virtual version merely due to its convenience. In order to emphasize this, I suggest that IWU professors encourage students to utilize Ames Library’s physical resources in hopes that their students can understand the experience of checking out a book.

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