The Trexler Library Student Advisory Board was a new initiative introduced in the fall 2022 semester. The board aims to incorporate student voices into various library operations. Public Services & Student Engagement Librarian Nicholas Cunningham ‘17 established the board following his experience with the library during his four years at the College.
“I very much remember being a student at Muhlenberg,” Cunningham shared. “I remember sometimes hearing that the library is here for the students, but there wasn’t a built-in way to get feedback, in my opinion. I figured one of the best ways to engage with the students is simply talking to them and trying to figure out different ways we can pull them into library affairs.”
Participation in the Student Advisory Board includes monthly meetings to discuss any concerns with current programs or new initiatives that could be implemented in the near future. The meetings will typically be one hour long and include any students on the board and a predetermined number of library staff. Meeting summaries will be posted publicly for those not in attendance to stay informed on what was discussed during the meetings. Snacks will also be provided, as “college students typically forget to eat throughout the day,” Cunningham added, reflecting on his own experiences.
The “library operations” in question include anything from revitalizing certain aspects of the library to starting new programs that students can engage with. In the past year, these initiatives included the revitalization of the Serpentine Garden in partnership with enACT and the reinstallation of the Bike Share Program through the Sustainability Studies Department. Cunningham referenced a particular aspect of the library and its potential for change through the board. “The building itself is just a lot of white paint. Mainly, many of the walls are barren and do not have a lot of art. This board would lead us in the right direction to include student art and identity to make it more of a student space. Interior design is one of the first things that would appeal to students and make the space more inclusive. I’m hoping that one day the library becomes a space that truly reflects the current student body at that time.”
While Cunningham has seen success thus far from the board, he acknowledges the hurdles he and his colleagues have faced. “One of the biggest challenges is being able to talk to the student body and spread awareness about things like the board,” he shared. “The library typically isn’t in a lot of direct communication with the students, which is why we have started using Instagram rather than email for many programs.”
As aforementioned, the board was started last year and saw success in the seven students who participated. A majority of these students self-disclosed that they were infrequent users of the library, but still wanted to steer the student voice in the right direction and highlight the more social aspects that the library has to offer.
“I want people to know about the academic services that the library provides, but with Muhlenberg being a residential campus, you sometimes have to speak to more than just the academic side,” said Cunningham. “Trying new things, specifically fun things, can hopefully engage the student body with the library in a social aspect. This could help them to be more aware of library affairs.”
“I think it is a nice way to have the school cater to more students’ needs, especially through the library,” explained Sophie Yellis ‘25.
Caleb Wakefield ‘25 shared a similar sentiment, adding “I think overall it’s a really good idea, not only does it give students a chance to be more involved in campus life but it also gives them a chance to voice opinions. I think having that at the library is a really good option because that is where students spend a lot of their time, but it would be cool to see boards like this in other aspects of campus too. It would be cool to be able to implement more things that students want to see on a wide variety since campus is a place where students live and spend all their time and want to be as comfortable as possible.”
Cunningham is optimistic for the future of the board and the library as a whole by considering the new perspectives that could be offered. “I’m hoping that the Student Advisory Board will give students more of a voice in these matters.”