As a community college, OCCC has an obligation to enhance and help the community that supports it. But recently, some students and staff have been complaining about people who are neither students nor staff coming in and using the library’s computers and study areas.
There are a few sensible arguments these complaints could be based on.
One is that allowing anyone to walk in and use the library’s resources makes it more difficult for students who need those resources to use them.
Another is that students have to pay for the right to be here, and these resources are part of what they paid for.
And a third is that by giving the public access to our campus, and allowing them to use our library’s resources, we open ourselves up to unsavory and criminal characters wanding about amongst the students.
While it is understandable that those complaining are concerned, simply banning the public is not a valid option.
It’s true there are public libraries scattered all around the metro, and some of these people could go there.
But there are neighborhoods all around the college, and the next closest public library to the college is three miles away.
Some non-students might not have ready access to transportation.
For them, the library might be the only access they have to the Internet, to look for jobs or stay in touch with family.
On the other hand, if a person is homeless, the library may offer shelter in the dead heat of summer, or when winter storms drop temperatures below 30 degrees.
So instead of arguing for a total ban on community use of OCCC’s library, maybe argue for a bit of moderation.
The college also could implement the Metropolitan System’s computer sign-up software, which limits users to a single hour if others are waiting.
Some of the staff could volunteer to offer career workshops to the public, held in the library, both to give those people a reason to be there, and to help them not have to be.
Finally, even if nothing is changed, to answer the grumblings of students, we as students should remember one thing: we may pay to be here, but without the community around us, we wouldn’t have a college to pay for in the first place.