Protestors gathered beside The Rock on Nov. 10 to collect signatures requesting that the MacKimmie Library be re-opened. Approximately 15 protestors were present throughout the day.
Rheanna Houston/the Gauntlet

Students raise concerns over study space

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Some students struggled to find study space during midterm season this semester. The University of Calgary and Students' Union have tried to address student concerns, but the December exam period will test whether the study space shortages has been solved.

"There's been a lot of talk lately about study space on campus," said SU president Dylan Jones at the Student Legislative Council Tuesday, Nov. 8. "There have been some concerns about not having enough, there has been a Facebook page that has been dedicated to protesting until MacKimmie Tower is open."

Third-year bioinformatics student Sartaj Hundal created the Facebook event "Open MacKimmie Library at UCalgary," protesting the lack of study space on campus.

"There's not enough space on the main campus to accommodate student needs," said Hundal. "It's not uncommon to see students on the floor with a book open in hallways."

Hundal created the event with his friend Nikolay Todorov after searching for an hour on Oct. 19 in the Taylor Family Digital Library for study space, but gave it up as a lost cause.

The protest took place on Nov. 10 with approximately 15 people turning out for the event. Over 1,400 clicked 'attending' on Facebook.

"It's been solved to an extent, but unfortunately we see a huge attitude among the students at the university that they would just rather go home and study than try and create a better campus life," said Hundal.

Jones met with U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall in the week of Oct. 17 to share concerns students had over lack of study space.

"I wanted to check to make sure that we hadn't lost any overall study space in the transition from MacKimmie to tfdl and in fact we've had a net increase," said Marshall at slc.

She did notice that a budget cut occurred in the Libraries and Cultural Resources area, which prevented some of the furniture being installed in the tfdl. Marshall reinstated it immediately.

An inventory of study spaces was taken to monitor how frequently the space was being used. In the usage counts, the results showed that of the 140 reopened spaces in MacKimmie Block, the maximum usage at any time was 30 students. The counts also showed that there were fewer students using the other libraries on campus.

Hundal commented that the tfdl has become more than just a study space, comparing it to a "new MacHall."

"From floors 4-6 it is very quiet, but the space optimization just isn't there," said Hundal. "There's a running joke that's been going on in the tfdl -- one million ways to sit, zero ways to study."

Marshall wrote an open letter that was published in the Gauntlet and uToday. She was surprised at only receiving about 35 responses to the letter -- 15 from faculty members and one from a parent.

Concerns were mostly about quiet study space, and some students expressed surprise that the MacKimmie Tower would be closing when the tfdl opened.

MacKimmie Tower is being closed due to mechanical and electrical systems needing to be replaced.

"There is a wonderful plan in place for that building," said Marshall. "We're waiting for money from the provincial government in order to move in that direction."

The provincial government looks at the usage rates of the spaces on campus when granting funding, and right now the rates don't show there is a shortage of space, explained Marshall.

"As of Thursday, Oct. 27, 130 additional single study seats were added to the tfdl, bringing the total study spaces in the tfdl up to 1,790. An additional 130 spaces were opened in the MacKimmie Block on Oct. 24. Which means there are 1,920 study spaces in those two buildings -- up 285 spaces from the old total of 1,635 in the MacKimmie Library," wrote Marshall in a letter sent to students on Nov. 14.

A study space is defined as a chair with a table or desk where a student can work, and seats like couches and bean bags are not counted.

"In regards to the protest itself, I thought there was some very positive outcomes," said Hundal. He had a conversation with Jones, and Hundal is now looking at Quality Money proposals. Hundal said that bad planning on his part led to the protest being scheduled on a reading day and convocation. He explained that he had just picked a day after his midterm schedule lightened up.

"I haven't had trouble finding a place to study since more tables were added to the tfdl two weeks ago," said fourth-year political science student Jennifer Abbott. "Weren't there only seven people at the protest? Clearly other students feel that this issue is no longer relevant."

Concerns were raised regarding the appropriate use of workrooms, such as sleeping, watching tv or throwing pizza parties during the slc meeting on Nov. 8.

University librarian Thomas Hickerson said that they are very hesitant to go around and make people explain what they are doing in workrooms. For example a film student could be watching a movie for homework.

Concerns over signage and communications were raised as well. Proposed solutions included larger signs directing people to new areas of the tfdl and less crowded study space.

A slc representative also commented the culture of library use and the respect students have for each other and the facility is different than it was in the MacKimmie Library Tower.

Hundal agrees: "The students seem to lack this culture of respect for what it means to be in a library."