Friday, February 20, 2009

Fightin' the Man

MAJOR UPDATE: Recent events have forced me to make this a 'very special' edition of Joel's Capstone Blog. I won't be naming names (to protect the innocent), but there are a few very important developments that have to me mentioned before I move forward. Things are about to get somewhat interesting, and not exactly for the better.

Yesterday, my field supervisor and other higher ups here at the research center met with the UT representative who is negotiating CTR's move to the new building. Unbeknownst to the folks here at the center, the purpose of this particular meeting was to introduce an interior designer who had been brought in to help create a consistent look and feel for the various floors of the new building. This wouldn't have been a problem, if she had asked questions and tried to work with CTR staff to determine what would work best for the center and be aesthetically pleasing... but what actually took place during the meeting wasn't nearly that productive (or civil). It ended up being more of a hostile takeover.

Basically, staff were informed that an inventory would be taken of all the furniture currently at the center. This would include both common areas (meeting/break rooms, copy rooms) and individual offices. Then, the designer would decide what furniture would work best where in the new space- without regard to staff preference or comfort level. Let me make that clear: the designer was requesting free reign to remove someone's desk from their office and put it somewhere else, if she felt it better served the purposes of the new space. Maybe not the best way to introduce yourself?

And this plan, of course, included the library. She actually came down to see it, and as it turns out: this just won't do. Some of our shelves are different sizes, and colors even! Our desks are too old! Our chairs don't match! Never mind the fact that we manage to serve our patrons to the best of our abilities, and have won a few TxDOT awards for service (I may be a pinch bitter about this, if you haven't noticed). And beyond that, the implication was that we needed to buy new furniture. One of the other floors in the new building is buying a whole new set of modern looking chairs and desks- I've seen it, and it does look nice. And while what I've read so far does recommend maintaining a consistent look and feel to your library, the fact remains: we don't have the money for a whole new set of furniture, or new bookshelves. We have to make the best with what we have, period. And forcing researchers and staff to mix and match with what they're comfortable with isn't going to create a better work environment.

The meeting, ultimately, seemed to be a pressure sale on purchasing new furnishings for the library and research floor. When we told the UT rep that we couldn't afford it, we were told that we would have to work with the designer. When we told them that didn't sound like it would serve our needs, they told us it might be made mandatory. The plan, as of now, is to not back down and insist that the CTR be allowed to plan the move ourselves (though the designer is now in charge of finding a moving company, by the way... instead of going with the people who moved the library last time, and know about book/report placement and so on. Excuse me if I ARGH). But, depending on what happens... all the suggestions I put together might ultimately end up being ignored.

This is a depressing prospect, but my field supervisor insists that I move forward as if the future of the library is actually in our hands. Everything I've read so far emphasizes that aesthetics, while important, should not be placed over functionality. So I still plan on best using what we currently have. Still... frustrating! More as it develops.

1 comment:

  1. oooooh. Real life. Designers can be real control freaks, and for some reason UT often bows down to them. CTR might be able to go somewhere and say "the designers say we have to do this" and see if the $ materializes. When designers want it, it sometimes happens. Maybe it will be like the fancy commode that CEO authorized at Wells Fargo...

    Kilgarlin is moving labs this summer, and "allowing" us to use our own tables, chairs and such and such has been interesting. Little elves may spirit over the things we need and find useful after the big design "open house".