Library East may fall into student hands

Under a plan proposed by the Smith Memorial Student Union advisory board, the vacant space on the third floor mezzanine of the SMSU would be taken over by the students but parts of it could be leased back to the administration.

That decision came this week as the board, chaired by Tamara Spycher, a graduate student in education, was scheduled to make a proposal for control of the 5,699 square feet of unused space. The space, in the northeast quarter of SMSU, has been vacant since last fall when Counseling and Psychological Services moved to the University Center Building. Students have coveted the space, envisioning it as another step toward complete student ownership of the building. The administration, pressed for space, has proposed putting some administrative and academic functions into the vacant space. Under the program to be proposed by the board, the solution would partially meet both goals.


The northeast quarter of the SMSU building is known as Library East and is paid for by educational and general fund money. The remainder of the building is student-controlled.

Tracy Earll, a junior in accounting, has long led a campaign for the students to take over the entire Library East so the building would become totally student run. Spycher has said her present vision is slightly different. The board’s action this week seemed to reflect a more gradual approach than Earll would prefer.

Prior to its decision, the board had asked Mike Irish, director of facilities, to compile the potential costs involved in the students taking over the CAPS space. He produced the figures and they proved substantial enough that the board decided to consider all possible alternatives.

The figures supplied by Irish showed that utilities would run as much as $44,000 for electricity yearly, almost $17,000 for gas and about $16,500 thousand for water. Custodial services would run about $14,000 a year. He estimated the one-time cost of remodeling the mezzanine at $197,827.

The board itself does not provide funds. Those would come as allocations from the Student Fee Committee, chaired by Earll. The board also does not recommend what student groups would occupy the CAPS space. That would come from the Student Space Committee, chaired by Chase LoGreco.

Bill Ryder, assistant director of new student orientation and board member, proposed the solution that found favor with other members. The students would take control of the entire CAPS area. However, since the current requests for student space would not necessarily fill the acquired area, the university could lease back part of the space. This would help defray the costs estimated by Irish.


In making the decision, the board considered the unfilled requests for space now on the table. Four student groups that have no space have requested accommodations. They are forensics, the Vietnamese Student association, the Greek Council and Mega Gamers, a group which designs and experiments with games and gaming.

Other groups have requested better or larger space. One of them is Pre-Health, which now occupies a windowless office in the sub-basement of SMSU. The Center for Dispute Resolution is currently sharing quarters in the Student Activities and Leadership Program space. The Disabilities Resource center wants more space, as does KPSU radio. The women’s resource center wants additional space for a confidentiality area.

Earlier, there had been an expressed need to expand the Information and Academic Support Center and provide better space for legal and mediation services.

LoGreco, who also is a member of the Student Fee Committee, said the SFC is considering requests for funding from eight new groups. He predicted that as time goes on, more and more groups will ask for space. He added that some present offices have as many as six groups sharing the same space, requiring staggered hours for usage. He said the SFC does not like to fund equipment for groups if the group has no space on campus.

“The equipment goes to the president’s house and we never see it again,” he said.

The board members considered all these factors while weighing their decision. The sentiment was that the students should take control of the space. Present needs for space may not consume all the CAPS area, but as time passes the need for more student space will inevitably accrue. The university could be offered leases on the currently unused space, with the proviso that the students could take back use of the space when and if it is needed.

John Eckman, assistant director of auxiliary services and adviser to the board, is drawing up a letter of proposal to take the concept to the next level. As adviser, Eckman expressed approval of the idea.

“There is a growing momentum for on-campus activity,” he said. “We should be ahead of the curve.”

The board considered the fact that some space has already been freed up in the SMSU sub basement. Two Native American groups, AISES and UISHE, have moved to the new Native American Student center.

Prior to the meeting, Irish had voiced confidence that under the leadership of Spycher the board and the university would work out a compromise solution to the CAPS space.

The board’s decision if carried out is not likely to dampen the efforts of Earll. She remains determined to make the whole building, including Library East, entirely a student union, with no occupancies not student controlled.

Historically, the SMSU building was built in four sections. One quarter, Library East, was built entirely with administration sources. When finished, in 1960, it was called the Library building. A photo caption at the time proclaimed it as “our new library.” As the university grew, the new Millar library replaced it and the SMSU section became Library East. The library still occupies the largest part of Library East, using this square footage as a service resource. However, during the period more than a decade ago when a new addition was being added to Millar Library, part of Library East became a temporary library annex for the convenience of students.

Today, the CAPS space remains a tattered relic of its former usefulness. Planks and remnants of torn-out fixtures lie scattered about. A battered green signboard identifies tenants who apparently occupied space in times past: The Oregon Commission for Women, the Center for Columbia River History, the University Development Annex and something called REPP.

The proposal of the SMSU Advisory Board may be pointing the way to a new and useful identity for the third floor mezzanine of Library East.