In search of a quiet place to study

BY SAM LANE | NOVEMBER 17, 2009 7:21 AM

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As rain pounded against the windows of the Main Library, UI senior Leslie Perk sat alone at a wooden desk in a multi-person study carrel. Around her, students shuffled through the hallways, conversing and making noise.

“Even in the Main Library, where it’s supposed to be completely quiet, people are always chatting and whispering,” Perk said. “That can be kind of frustrating and annoying if you’re trying to find a quiet spot.”

She isn’t alone in her frustration.

Many UI students, and some administrators, are concerned about the number of quiet, quality study spaces on campus available for students.

And budget issues contribute to the problem.

With recent cuts, four UI libraries — math, psychology, geosciences, and physics — will be forced to consolidate by the end of the year and move some of their materials into the Main Library.

In addition, the 2008 flood caused supplies from the art and music libraries to be moved into the Main Library.

“We have a double whammy here,” said Hope Barton, an associate director of University Libraries. “[A lack of study spaces] is something we’re concerned about. We certainly did not want to have to lose those.”

When the art and music libraries closed, their 230 “user seats” were distributed as much as possible throughout the Main Library. The consolidation of the four other university libraries brings a loss of another 190 user seats.

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The Main Library currently has 1,120 seats at various study tables or carrels, 220 study chairs at desktop computers, and 175 seats in soft seating.

In addition to a possible lack of quiet study space, one concern for students and university officials is the absence of 24-hour access. In fact, there are no university buildings regularly open 24 hours during the school year.

Around half of the Big Ten university campuses have at least one library open 24 hours a day.
Since fall 2003, the College Library, the undergraduate library at the University of Wisconsin, has been open 24 hours Monday through Thursday.

“I think it’s pretty important,” said Carrie Kruse, the director of the library. “Our society is a 24-hour society. There’s a frame of mind that we need to do anything we’re able to at any hour of the day. I definitely feel there’s a need.”

As finals week grows near, the only week the Main Library stays open around the clock, students said they have become increasingly aware of the shift in the library’s hours.

In addition, the IMU will be open 24 hours and its coffee shop will stay open later to accommodate late-night studiers. This change follows students’ increased use of the IMU’s study spaces. The IMU’s website also highlights its abundance of study spaces, noting it has 344 chairs and 131 “comfy” chairs.

“Post-flood, we’ve had some changes in study space,” said Nancy Abram, the manager of marketing and design at the IMU. “[But] we’re looking to raise awareness of the amenities we have here.”

Barton said there are no plans to create a 24-hour library at the UI, nor does she believe it’s feasible.

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