Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation of Pittsburgh, Mercyhurst intends to construct the Ridge Reading Room and Gallery in the Hammermill Library. This reading room will house the collection of Thomas J. & Michele Ridge Collection.
The collection is an extensive archive of Ridge’s life of community service. It is well known how important the Ridge family was to the Erie community and I think a reading room would be a good way to showcase that importance. However, there are some elements of the new reading room that have not been made clear.
The Hammermill Library already has two large reading rooms that with the exception of finals week are rarely ever full. The addition of a third one seems extravagant, especially when many students, including myself, would rather have more collaboration rooms to use for projects and studying.
The reading rooms are nice for individual study, but when trying to study with a group there are a limited number of spaces on campus that you can go to that are not classrooms and be able to talk at a reasonable volume with a group of people.
There is also the question of where the new room would be located. The only feasible way to add another room in the library is to do a major renovation of the library.
The library’s current design is a hodgepodge mixture of seemingly randomly connecting rooms and staircases that are hard to figure out. If they are going to add the reading room to the upper levels of the library hopefully a renovation would streamline these designs and make it easier for students to navigate.
I think the best place for them to add another room would be on the main floor of the library. Adding the collection here would make it easier for people to access it, and would bring more attention to the other services such as the writing center, tutoring center and the IT help desk that are also located there.
Overall, I think it is a good thing to have a space to display the entire collection. Some of the collection is already displayed in the Center for Academic Engagement and in the hallway connecting the it and the library.
Having the collection in one spot and accessible to students will bring more focus to Ridge and his life. This would show why the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences is named after him.
This collection is a great opportunity to display an exceptional Erie native who has contributed so much to our country. Choosing the best place to house the collection is essential to showcasing the life of Tom Ridge and improving the Hammermill Library.