Lyndsey Wajert: The study zone Band-Aid

Eckles Library on the Mount Vernon Campus is usually packed with visiting students from the Foggy Bottom campus two times each semester: during midterms and during the reading period for finals. Study rooms, desks, computers and even spaces on the floor are all occupied in the typically commodious Eckles, indicating that many Foggy Bottom residents have looked to the Vern for the study space that Gelman cannot provide.

In response to the overcrowding of libraries during finals, the University has increased available study spaces and hours for various buildings. This is both a welcome move on the part of administrators and a telling sign of how much time and money the University needs to devote to the permanent expansion of study areas.

Students prefer to study in locations other than their dorms for many reasons. For example, I do not have to live in Thurston to know that Thurston can be loud, even during reading periods. The same can be said of other halls, as less devoted students taking longer than necessary “study breaks” can be somewhat unruly and distracting. Also, studying in a place other than a small dorm or apartment is necessary for one’s focus, especially after only getting four hours of sleep means the temptation of a nearby bed can become too much.

Yet when the majority of the Foggy Bottom campus packs into Gelman, the benefits of studying in a quiet library are overshadowed by the crowds and the extremely frustrating shortage of outlets and desks. I realize that the library is not meant to hold the entire student body. But during finals, the need for increased study space is highlighted by the fact that naturally, the remaining students who can’t fit into Gelman overflow into Eckles, Ames, the Marvin Center and Duques.

The University acted on students’ requests for more study areas with the “Study Zone” initiative that officially opened up such buildings for students to use. This laudable effort eases some of the stress of finals and is much appreciated. Students do not have to cram into a library, yet they are still able to work safely and comfortably across campus and late into the night.

According to the University’s news release, extensive collaboration occurred to make the initiative happen. Departments like Student and Academic Support Services, the University Police Department, and Facilities Management got involved – just to name a few.

The input of these departments is valuable, but, the fact that the University needed to take such measures in an effort to provide GW students with an essential element – study space – means that the University must reassess its current options. While this is a creative and meaningful effort, the fundamental issue remains: Gelman must be renovated to both fit and cater to the needs of more students.

A Hatchet article reported in April that “the library is currently raising money for a $5 million overhaul of the aging building’s ground level,” and University Librarian Jack Siggins said he “hoped to put $125,000 toward renovations of a portion of the first floor this spring to encourage prospective benefactors to donate to the project.” As the University is not making Gelman’s renovations a financial priority at this time, and the fundraising is left to the efforts of the library’s staff and individual donors, this issue needs to become a higher priority in the near future.

Finals require even more study rooms, desks, outlets and space in the library. The influx of Foggy Bottom students seeking solace on the Vern is striking and proves that students across both campuses could benefit from more money directed towards Gelman’s renovations. Though Colonials value the “Study Zone” initiative for final reading periods, finding an open study carrel on the third floor of Gelman, even throughout the academic year, requires effort. Thus, the “Study Zone” initiative is only treating the symptoms, not the source of the problem.

The writer, a freshman majoring in journalism, is the contributing opinions editor.

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