Committee votes to open library on Sundays, but future uncertain
The Hekman Library Committee unanimously voted to open the library on Sundays for a trial period this spring semester, but President Michael Le Roy is hitting the pause button while top administrators weigh the decision and figure out the necessary steps to final approval.
“This decision ends up being really symbolic for the college and our current understanding of sabbath,” said Le Roy. “It’s complex and I want to have more conversation about it.”
The committee voted to open the library from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the same hours the Spoelhof Fieldhouse is open on Sundays, at times that will not interfere with morning church services or LOFT.
But because the library is shared between the college and Calvin Theological Seminary, the process to ratify a decision on the library is complicated.
Le Roy said he is considering forming a group to explore the idea further and write a report, but it is not yet clear when this group would be formed or when he would make a decision.
“I haven’t had any time to think about it yet,” Le Roy said of the proposal that was passed in mid-November. “It’s lower priority than the budget, prioritization and the strategic plan right now.”
The library has traditionally been closed on Sundays because the Christian Reformed Church has a historically strong Sabbath culture.
“But the fieldhouse is open on Sundays and students study in there,” Provost Claudia Beversluis said. “They want to study where the resources are, or they just want a place to study outside the dorms.
“We are rethinking what it looks like to have a hospitable campus on Sunday, what it looks like to have the library as a central learning space,” she continued.
But top administrators at the college and seminary disagree on what the steps in the approval process are, which makes the timetable for a final decision, let alone implementation, uncertain.
Beversluis said that the two remaining hurdles are approval from both President Le Roy and Calvin Theological Seminary President Jul Medenblik.
But Medenblik said that he thought the decision had to go to the college’s faculty senate, and whether or not faculty senate needed to vote on it was unclear.
“My understanding was the library committee’s action is to go, at some time, before the faculty senate,” he said. “We appreciate the consultative process as we all discern effects of decisions on community life.”
Library committee chair Ron Feenstra from the seminary agreed with Medenblik that the final hurdles remained with the college and not with the seminary.
“President Medenblik does not need to approve that decision in order for it to be implemented,” said Feenstra, which is the opposite of what both Le Roy and Beversluis told Chimes. “As far as I know, Calvin Seminary is not holding back the library from implementing the committee’s decision.”
But library director Glenn Remelts, who proposed the change, said that he thought the proposal needs an OK from all three places: the college president, the seminary president and the faculty senate. He said Medenblik had already approved the measure, and the final decision was up to President Le Roy and then faculty senate.
The trial period for Sunday library hours did appear briefly in the Dec. 2 faculty senate agenda, but not for a vote. Faculty senate leadership later pulled the item from the agenda.
The idea of opening the library on Sunday has been proposed to the library committee for years.
“Calvin has a reputation for being academically rigorous,” said Feenstra. “We need to give students the resources to be so.”
The opening of the library would also depend on whether or not people volunteer to work.
“Student workers would be the ones running the library on Sunday,” said Jonathan Lin, student representative on the library committee.
“The student workers will be paid,” assured Beversluis, “but we aren’t going to force anyone to work on a Sunday.”
Calvin is actually in the minority of Christian colleges that have their libraries closed on Sundays; a survey in 2007 showed that 75 percent of Christian colleges and universities have library hours on Sundays.