Friday, February 1, 2008


We deal with a lot of students every day. This past January, as a matter of fact, we seated 10,420 kids at an average of 521 per day. That is kids in seats, not just those who walk through the door. I know this is true, because we count them every block.

Midterm week, however, was a totally different challenge. In years past the library (and school) has been overrun with hordes of students looking for places to study, to socialize, to relax. Last year was apparently epic. To avoid a repeat of that, we needed a plan.

In the past, students were required to maintain strict silence and individual study in the library during exam weeks. How would that suit students who wanted to study in groups? Recent studies support the benefits of collaborative work with students. I was prepared to chuck the “rule of silence”. Before making a decision though, we decided to poll our patrons, the students.

Look at the survey and see the choices.

To be honest, who would choose A? To my surprise, one-third of students chose silent, individual study as their preference. There were a few comments, too. One student, who chose B, wrote “This answer is false. Really, I circled A but my over-talkative friend made me change it to B”. When I was in high school, I probably would have been that chatty friend.
So what did we do? We compromised. The 1st and 2nd floors would be for “regular library rules”, meaning business as usual. (That’s where I would have chosen to sit). The 3rd floor would be for silent, individual study. Of course, lots of kids chose the 3rd floor and then didn’t get that they couldn’t do group study. Mostly, though, we had students on the 3rd floor working incredibly hard, and very intensively. Clearly, they needed that space.

The 3rd floor study carrels have always been for individual study, but there is pressure during lunch blocks for it to be a social space. Given the experience of midterms, I have a new appreciation for the large number of students who really want/need a quiet place to work. We will be reinforcing this area as a quiet area.

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