Winthrop library to prohibit most access to public

Students concentrate on their studies at the Dacus Library at Winthrop University on Thursday.
Students concentrate on their studies at the Dacus Library at Winthrop University on Thursday.

Most public access to Winthrop University's Dacus Library will be cut off beginning Dec. 17.

To enter the building, a person will be required to swipe a valid university ID. The public will no longer be able to use the library collections, archives or computers without an appointment or without filling out an application stating what research they will be doing.

In an e-mail sent to students this week, Mark Herring, dean of library services, said the new policy is designed to keep out unsupervised children, people who monopolize computers that are provided for students and "occasional behaviorally challenged individuals who cannot or will not abide by appropriate conduct requirements."

"Collectively, these have become a significant burden on the time of library (and occasionally, Winthrop police) personnel, as well as being counter-productive to your learning and study environment, which by definition should be safe, secure, and without distractions," the e-mail stated.

Rebecca Masters, a spokeswoman for Winthrop, also said the safety of students using the library is a concern. Since January 2006, police have received nine suspicious person calls and four larceny calls to the library.

Signs on the doors of the library are alerting people to the new policy.

Jay Stewart, a retired teacher now living in Rock Hill, saw the signs and is upset his access to the library will be restricted.

Stewart said that it seems unfair for -Winthrop to ask for his money during basketball season but not let him use facilities such as the library.

"I love the school, I love the activities up there, but I think the public is being given a raw deal," he said.

But Masters said the university's primary obligation is to its students, not the public.

"This is a university library and it has been created to provide the library research materials and skills building that students need," she said. "There is a public library in downtown Rock Hill. This is a university library for special purposes and always has been."

Carmen Maye, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said she thinks Winthrop is legally entitled to put reasonable restrictions on access to the library.

The library is the latest of many buildings on campus to implement card-controlled access systems. Students have been required to swipe their ID cards at residence halls since a robbery and attempted sexual assault last school year. Owens Hall, Winthrop's newest classroom building, also requires ID upon entry.