Gelman study spaces must be altered to better fit student needs

Updated: March 26, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

During exam periods, a trip to Gelman Library reveals large groups of students under varying stress levels all occupying the same space. Many studying spaces – especially Gelman – face an influx of students, who aren’t used to the norms and unspoken rules of the library. But there is a solution. With some realistic renovations and relocation of items, Gelman would be more efficiently designed to cater to different students needs.

In January, officials acknowledged that Gelman’s space is often overcrowded. Officials are currently assessing the space in Gelman to develop a plan to provide more flexible spaces for study over the next five to 10 years. But administrators need to act now to make the space more accessible for current students. The current space doesn’t accommodate for students who need desktop computers and a quiet place to get work done. As officials assess the space, they should start the renovation process by adding between 15 and 30 computers to the fourth fifth floors – which are designated quiet spaces. Although there is a small computer lab on the sixth floor, this isn’t enough to accommodate students needs.

Hatchet FIle Photo: Rachel Armany

Hatchet FIle Photo: Rachel Armany

Currently, Gelman study spaces aren’t clearly defined by which zones are “quiet” and which are “talk-friendly” areas. There are “quiet space” signs in some rooms – like the singular quiet rooms on the fourth and fifth floors – but not on general floors. Although the Gelman website defines these spaces on their website, these definitions are not clear in practice, as the signs for quiet spaces are posted only in group rooms and not per floor in shared spaces. The second floor is commonly understood by students to be a place where people can talk at a low volume. However, students may also use the third and fourth floors to speak quietly, which leads to confusion among students who are using the floors for silent studying or group work. If this confusion were to be cleared up with signs, computers could be put into these spaces to create more areas for students in need of these resources.

It isn’t clear for many students, especially ones in larger study groups, which places are best for conversations and what locations are intended only for silent study. Although there are other places to study in groups – like the Milken Institute School of Public Health or District House – Gelman is the central location students gravitate toward. If all the study rooms are booked and the second floor is packed, it’s understandable that students would turn to the third floor for study groups, but in doing so, they disadvantage the other students who use the floor as a quiet space.

As a student who doesn’t have access to an efficient personal laptop, using Gelman computers is essential for me – especially during midterms and finals. Often my computer will shut down when I’m in the middle of my homework assignments, which is why I need a desktop computer that is more reliable. But using a desktop computer in a noisy and distracting environment can also be just as detrimental to my work as an inefficient laptop. And I am not alone in this situation. A quick scan of the library reveals that often a majority of the computers are used during exam periods. Computers in Gelman are especially critical if students are in need of a specific program or database that is only available within the library.

Even though only about two percent of the student body comes from the bottom 20 percent of family income, access to computers is still an issue that must be addressed. To accommodate students who need computers for more than a quick Google Search, Gelman must add more computers to provide Internet access for more respected quiet floors, like the fifth or sixth floors. Students can opt to use the library on the Mount Vernon Campus if Gelman is too crowded, but they shouldn’t have to take the Vern Express to another campus just to use a computer.

If students continue to overfill study rooms and use upper level floors for study groups, providing computer access on upper floors could be a helpful change for students who need uninterrupted access to the internet. If this is not a reasonable goal for Gelman due to insufficient funds, then computers should be added to other study spaces on campus – like the Marvin Center study room or the larger rooms in Corcoran Hall.

Although Gelman may be facing a decrease in funding because the student library gift will now be opt in, officials are expanding the budget to account for the losses. With a budget expansion, improving computer access benefits an irreplaceable resource that is constantly used by undergraduate students, graduate students, professors and other visitors.

The concerns about overcrowding raised by officials are genuine. It is a fact that both students and administrators have agreed upon. That’s why it is worth the investment to improve the efficiency of a building that many students rely on during the academic year.

Rachel Armany, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The column incorrectly reported that about two percent of the student body comes from the lower fifth percentile of family income. About two percent of the student body from the bottom 20 percent of family income. We regret this error.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.