As midterms near, reservation system draws mixed reviews

With students staking out spots in Gelman Library to write papers, work on group projects and study for tests, it’s clear that midterm season has arrived at GW.

In the past, groups of students would often occupy study rooms in the library for days on end. But the new Gelman study room reservation system launched this summer has prevented that scenario from taking place, University Librarian Jack Siggins said last week.

Siggins said the study room reservation system was launched to make the process for using study rooms fair – each room can only be reserved for two hours at a time – so that students could not hog space in the library.

“Students have been successfully using the system,” Siggins said in an e-mail. “Since it was initiated at the beginning of this semester, 1,708 users have registered on the system and 5,505 reservations have been placed. More specifically, more than 90 percent of available reservations have been taken for the time slots between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m., Sunday through Wednesday, and between 8 p.m. and midnight, the usage is typically 100 percent.”

Unlike the past, when study rooms were available on a first-come, first-served basis, the study room reservation system allows students to reserve space up to two weeks in advance through an online system. Students are asked to bring a printed copy of their reservation as confirmation that they have reserved the room. The confirmation sheet also allows students to ask any group that is overstaying its welcome in the study rooms, or that did not use the system to reserve the space, to leave, Siggins said.

The new system has drawn mixed reviews from students. Some say the system has made the process of obtaining a study room fair, whereas others say the system does not allow students to use the study rooms for enough time.

The two-hour time limit in particular drew complaints.

“I think the two-hour limit is too short,” said freshman Assem Burkitbayeva while studying in one of the rooms.

Freshman Maryann Tadros agreed.

“They should let us reserve for more than two hours,” she said, suggesting the limits be raised to three or four hours.

Students also said they were unaware of when a room was reserved and thus found it difficult to know how long they could stay in a specific room, if at all.

“You should be able to know when the room you’re in is going to be reserved so you can plan accordingly,” senior Chloe Lew said.

Lew proposed having a more visible system that would allow all students to see specifically when a room was reserved.

“They should have something on the front of the door [to the study room],” senior Lew said. “We were studying for like two hours and then we were kicked out.”

Other students said they have had to kick students who had no idea the system existed out of study rooms, making the process to remove students from the room a difficult feat.

“Half the people don’t know about the system,” freshman Katie Winkler said. “When you show up to a room and say ‘we have this room reserved,’ they’re like ‘what?’ “

Siggins said he has heard from students that they would like there to be more rooms available that students cannot reserve online.

“Two or three individuals have said they dislike the system and want a portion of the rooms to be unregulated,” Siggins said.

Despite some complaints and constructive criticism, there are students who feel that the reservation system is a generally good idea.

“It just makes sure that you get a room and people can’t just sit in rooms and squat rooms and put their stuff there,” senior Sarah Hirsch said.

University officials have found support for the system from both students and staff.

“The Library Student Advisory Board supports the system,” Siggins said, adding that “reference librarians like it because it has greatly reduced the complaints about limited access to study rooms they have received in the past.”

Siggins said the library has attempted to respond to every complaint they have received about the system.

“Two students voiced concern over double-booking rooms, though in both instances we verified that the system was in fact not double-booking and the issue stemmed from confusion or mistake by the student user,” Siggins said. “Now, the Gelman Access Desk is equipped with means to verify the legitimacy of reservations in case of disputes.”

Siggins added that the reservation system will be reviewed in the near future to determine what, if any, changes should be made.

“We plan to do an assessment at the end of this semester to evaluate the success of the system and gather ideas for improvements via a survey and or focus groups,” Siggins said.

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