Dean of Libraries relaxes rules on student snacking

Photo by Stephanie Mason: Daniella Martinez, junior recreational therapy major, snacks on grapes and a Snickers bar on the sixth floor of the library.

Katherine Lepri/Staff Writer

After an unpopular pilot program over the summer that barred food and drink from the Green and Hubert Libraries, students can once again eat while they cram for their exams, but with a few added caveats.

“I think we all recognized that our students are often working under a lot of pressure, and that they have a lot of competition, and are trying to make the most of their time,”  said Dr. Anne Prestamo, dean of libraries, about the new policy that allows some types of snacks.

“We’re asking for students to be responsible, to help us try to minimize incidents and accidents that occur around food and to limit what they bring into the library to light snack foods and not drippy, messy, smelly foods.”

This past June, Thomas Breslin, professor of politics and international relations who acted as interim dean of libraries, implemented a strict no food and drink except water policy in the library that irked many of the 50,000 student body who spent multiple hours a day in the facilities.

While some students complained, Breslin and other library administrators believed it was a needed measure to protect their new technological resources.

“The computers would come back in dirty, sticky. We tried to clean them, we couldn’t keep up,” Breslin said. “This was all over the library. We had sticky tables, stained rugs, cockroaches in the archives, a dead mouse was reported on the second floor.”

 Breslin initiated the stringent rules over the summer months in an effort to combat the mess left by some students and their careless eating habits, he said.

“We were about to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars of new equipment for the students to use,” said Breslin, who argued that the students eating habits had increasingly become a hazard for resources at the libraries. “It made absolutely no sense to keep up the dirt, the food, the beverages, other than water in the library.”

The summer’s policy change was also largely impacted by comments pertaining to students’ opinion regarding food in the library from the LibQUAL+ Survey that was conducted spring 2013.

In the LibQUAL+ Survey led by Associate Dean for Public Services, Consuella Askew, one undergraduate student said that he wanted to try to keep the library cleaner and was still finding food wrappers from messy students. The FIU Libraries LibQUAL+ report, which evaluated the Green Library, Hubert Library and Engineering Library services, will be published later this year.

The new stricter policy had been a popular measure among staff that had begun to find students ordering pizza and having birthday parties in the study. Some students believe that the policy was too much.

“I think it’s wrong that they don’t let anyone have anything but water while you are studying for long hours,” said Konstantine Vtorov, finance and international business senior. “Within the last year, they started really heavily influencing the policy of not being able to have anything.”

Vtorov represented a significant percentage of students that spend hundreds of hours every semester studying for exams, researching for papers or meeting with study groups that manage their limited time by eating meals at the facilities.

“I started seeing people eating in the library and I found it disgusting,” said Sigifredo Romero, a second year graduate student, who had not heard of either policy change.

But after seeing fellow students eat, while they were studying, it changed his mind, and Romero began to treat himself to a snack or a drink while he prepared for classes.

“I saw that everybody used to do it, so I started doing it, ” Romero said.

The new policies at the library currently permit most snack foods and drinks including chips, nuts and cookies.  Library patrons are also requested to use spill proof containers for all drinks. If a student is found eating something other than snack foods, security and staff will politely ask them to take their food outside the library or to put it away.

“I think it’s a mistake, to have done what she [Prestamo] did, to relax the rules,” said Breslin, who has been working for the university since 1976, of the new dean’s decision to allow some eating inside the libraries. “I think she will find that it will come back to bite her.”

Breslin said that Prestamo’s relaxation of the food and drink policy was a bad decision and will eventually lead to the deterioration of the library’s condition.

“The students are the biggest users of the library,” Prestamo said. “We would like to work in partnership with our students and be sensitive to the needs of our students as much as we can.

Library officials agree that everyone that utilizes the library system should be responsible to take care of the resources which are funded by both state and student dollars. Overall, the library system has a considerable yearly budget–approximately $15 million per year.

“We need to recognize the reality of the world we live in today,” Prestamo said. “There are a lot of pressures on people’s time and to be understanding of what people’s needs are.”

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