A comparison between D.H. Hill Library and a Chinese university library.
What attracts me to the libraries of NC State University?
Since my first day at NC State University, I have spent much of my time in the D.H. Hill Library. I am so attracted to the design, convenience, comfort and atmosphere of the library that I never get tired of being there all day–reading, learning, or just having a rest. I find that the library is pretty different from a university library in China. I’d like to make a simple comparison.
I. Design: Diversity vs. Uniformity
When I stepped into D.H. Hill library for the first time, I was surprised to see the colorful and diversified design of the interior. Every room and corner has a unique arrangement with chairs of different shapes and colors. In a Chinese library, uniformity is emphasized, and you will find rows of shelves, tables and chairs of the same shape, size and color. Some people may think that a library doesn’t need to be colorful since your purpose is to study there. However, for me a library with good design is one that will bring me a new experience and the energy to explore more within the atmosphere.
II. Chairs: Comfort vs. Seriousness
I love the chairs in D.H. Hill! They are of different shapes and colors and have adorable and comfortable designs. Apart from the regular tables and chairs (which are adjustable), there are lovely chairs you can hide yourself in, cozy chairs you can lie on, and funny chairs you can play with! In a Chinese university library, you can only find upright and old-fashioned chairs. The Chinese traditional belief is that people should have be of good manner when they stand or sit, and learning is a serious thing, so how can you learn by sitting so “slothfully”? However, for me, sitting comfortably helps me stick to my work for a longer time.
III. Technologies: High and Free Technologies vs. Pay E-reading Room
In the D.H. Hill library, I can easily get access to an iMac or other advanced computers with Internet connection; I can borrow laptops, tablets, cameras, and other electronic devices, as well accessories from the library; I can bring my own devices and conveniently find places to plug in; I can work on projects in a digital media lab. There is even a high-tech visualization studio for faculties and graduate students. What’s more, whenever I need to print, copy or scan something, I can easily find equipment that meets a particular need. In most Chinese university libraries, the only free technology you can find is an old-model computer in a common area on which you can only search information. There are so called e-reading rooms; however, you need to pay by hours.
(Top: D.H. Hill Library; Bottom: a Chinese university library)
IV. Group Study Area: Sharing and Collaboration vs. Individual and Independent Study
In the D.H. Hill library, there are dozens of group study rooms you can reserve on the NCSU website for free. These rooms are of different sizes and equipped with a variety of technologies to meet different needs. I find it’s quite helpful when my partner and I need to discuss and rehearse presentations. Furthermore, several common areas allow group discussions. In these areas you can find tables and chairs set up for groups, and whiteboards for you to sketch out ideas. In a Chinese university library, individual and independent learning is most emphasized. There is very limited room for group work. Chinese traditional beliefs about education stress concentration and meditation, so talking in a library is not welcome.
(Left: D.H. Hill Library; Right: a Chinese university library)
D.H. Hill Library is only one part of the library system at NC State University, there is also the James Hunt library on Centennial Campus which is equipped with even more advanced technologies, and other small libraries in different college buildings. Admittedly, we can also benefit a lot from the Chinese learning culture embodied in Chinese university libraries. However, under the increasing development of technology and globalization, we have to catch up with the world. Many universities in China are making progress in improving their libraries, and I believe the libraries at NC State University will be good models from which we can learn.
Jing He is an English teacher and Homeroom teacher at Beijing Royal School. She once taught Grade 7 to Grade 9. Now she is at NC State studying for a Masters of Education. She enjoys learning and living in Raleigh, and looking forward to all the coming new experiences.