Library ‘protester’ wins favorite bench back

Library’s facilities manager Justin Stewart returns the bench to Sydney K Powell’s favorite spot. (Roger Layton)

The bench is back.

Library administrators took immediate action to return student Sydney K Powell’s beloved bench to its rightful spot after reading about Powell’s protest in last week’s edition of The Universe.

Harold B. Lee Library’s communication manager Roger Layton responded immediately via email after becoming aware of Powell’s protest.

“We are happy to report that as soon as the library administration was informed that the favorite bench was missing, they took steps to see that it would return,” Layton wrote. “Thanks to Ms. Powell and Ms. Hutchings for bringing it to our attention.”

Layton later wrote that the “story should have a happy ending.”

A lot of people were involved in bringing the bench back, Layton said.

“We saw her,” Layton said. “As soon as we heard that she was interested in this bench we were like, ‘Well why did the bench go away?'”

Layton said furniture gets moved around the library on a day-to-day basis. Students, especially during finals week, tend to move furniture to create their own study areas.

“We don’t know if students took it somewhere or if it got pulled for refinishing, and then when it came back from the shop it just got put somewhere else,” Layton said. “There was never any intention to take away someone’s favorite bench and so as soon as we heard we were like, ‘Well, we’ll get a bench.'”

Powell was sitting on the ground at her designated spot at the entrance of the library when the bench was returned.

“It was so weird. I just sat down and I was eating and this guy named Justin and the security guard came over and they were carrying a bench and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so crazy,'” Powell said. “I was really shocked. I didn’t think it’d happen so quickly.”

Sydney K Powell and her friends enjoy a conversation on Powell’s favorite bench. Powell sat on the ground in the library every day for over a year to protest the removal of the bench until it was returned. (Daniel Sappenfield)

Layton said after they read the paper, they had the facilities manager Justin Stewart find a bench and place it in Powell’s favorite spot in the Harold B. Lee Library.

Layton said the bench most likely came from a small storage space in the library where they keep furniture waiting to be installed.

After the bench was returned, Powell’s Facebook blew up with many congratulations from friends and colleagues who were cheering for the return of the bench from the beginning.

“I met Sydney through her twin sister and then I’d always see her here, and I’d always sit down and talk to her,” said Derek Espiritu, an advertising major at BYU. “I’d ask her why she’s sitting on the floor and every single time she’d say, ‘Because they took my bench.’ I remember that’s the first answer she had, ‘They took my bench.'”

“I was cheering when I read the story,” Espiritu said. “Her silent protest was heard.”

A crowd of people gathered at the bench, including a beaming Powell, on the day of its return.

Layton said library administration is always willing to hear students’ requests and will do what’s possible to accommodate their needs. Sometimes there may be safety issues that detain administrators from fulfilling students’ requests. But in Powell’s case, she was heard.

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