Unused staircase in University Library poses danger to students


The unused winding staircase in the University Library goes from the 12th floor to the basement. It poses a danger because someone could potentially fall the entire way down. Photo by Walter Doerschuk.

Walter Doerschuk

Staircases aren’t meant to be scary. They should help people comfortably climb from one floor of a multiple-story building to another.

The Kent State Library, however, has a staircase that would certainly worry anyone afraid of heights.

“I’ve been up and down the staircase,” said Mark Pike, associate dean and curator of the library. “It makes me nervous.”

It is a winding set of stairs that goes all the way from the basement up to the 12th floor. Each floor of the library as well as the basement is accessible off the stairs. A person can stand at the top floor and look down to where it ends in the library’s basement.

The staircase was included as part of the library when it was built in 1970, University Architect Michael Bruder said.

The structure appears to be similar to any other staircase on campus. The stairs themselves are not the problem, library officials said.

“It’s as solid as any other staircase in the building,” Pike said.

Instead, the railings are the problem. Each set of stairs has a metal railing of normal height next to it, but a big opening is between the stairs and the railings. That means it would be possible for someone to fall all the way from the 12th floor to the basement.

Bruder said the railings “might not be fully compliant with today’s standards,” but they probably fit the building codes at the time the library was built.  

From that standpoint, the staircase is considered a safety hazard. Library users are not permitted to use the stairs on an everyday basis; however, they would be available for use in the case of an emergency such as a fire.  

Since the stairs are not available on a regular basis, some students aren’t even aware they are there.

“I heard about it, but I thought it was an escalator,” said Taylor Means, sophomore political science major.

Maggie Fernald, sophomore electronic media production major, said she could relate to the staircase being unavailable for use.

“I work at a library in Hudson, and we have stairs that only staff can use,” Fernald said. 

Pike said the library would like to make the necessary renovations and repairs to open the staircase.

“Whatever can be done,” he said. “It would have to be something that can prevent someone from falling over. We just have to create a safe environment.”

Pike said no plans are in place right now for the renovations and repairs because a budget is not in place. The staircase is one project of many that is on a list of $32 million worth of renovations Library Dean James Bracken and Bruder shared with President Lester Lefton.

Sergeant Nancy Shefchuk of the Kent State Police Department said neither criminal problems nor non-criminal problems requesting police assistance have involved the staircase.

If renovations can ever be made, the library would like to use the staircase as a showcase because of the views of campus looking out the 12th floor window where the stairs are located.

Contact Walter Doerschuk at [email protected].