The age of traditional libraries has come and gone. The multiple cubicles with students studying, the towering shelves filled with old novels, and the librarians constantly demanding silence are slowly becoming obsolete in some institutions. The societal shift to online libraries has resulted in unfortunate consequences, and in terms of IE, it means struggling to find a place to sit down and do your schoolwork.
It’s a common phenomenon to be pacing the halls of the IE Tower for what feels like forever, unable to find a quiet place to sit and study. Whether it be due to occupied workrooms or the stubbornness that prevents students from wanting to work in a quiet room, there is seemingly a lack of places to work on campus. Long tables on each floor do not have easily accessible plugs and can get very noisy, while quiet rooms do not offer students the space or relative privacy they need while studying. At the same time, sometimes you need an area where you can work in groups or record something for class in a private setting. Workrooms are great, but they are sparse, oftentimes taken up by a single student or reserved.
In turn, many students leave campus to do their work. The constant battle up and down the stairs to search for a place to study drives people away from staying on campus. The recent addition of restaurants and shops has done a lot to keep students at uni, but this lack of quiet study areas is undermining this goal.
Walking into an unused classroom one day, trying to think about how to transcribe my feelings and solutions in this article, I found that I was not alone in these sentiments. The entire wall was filled with post-it notes, all referring back to the ideas of how to make every student feel like they can work at the tower and asking if IE should make a library. I wish I knew what class or seminar was responsible for thinking of the great ideas and innovative responses I saw, but I am going to highlight a few of the most feasible for IE to implement.
The tower has so much potential. In all the space, there must be an untouched area able to host a more welcoming and widespread study area. The majority of proposals from the mysterious sticky-notes wall suggested opening a floor to be solely a library-like space, where there are numerous long tables equipped with outlets where large amounts of students can comfortably work. Adding to this proposal is the idea of a quiet floor, where students can study without being distracted by other students talking or going about their daily lives. An interesting approach was one that suggested moving the cafeteria upwards, making it more accessible to students during class time breaks, and devoting -3 to a large library space. Many sticky-notes stressed the importance of dictating rules for each study space, namely in terms of quietness.
Essentially, all of the ideas revolved around how to put students at the center of the tower design. I resonate with this perspective, since it is offering IE student-developed ideas on how to make our campus more productive and student-centered, as we are the ones for which it was built for. Rather than a critique, it is constructive criticism to help our university reach its highest potential.
Coming from the US, I toured many American universities before ending up at IE. Something unique about American university libraries is that they are not only vast in size, offering lots of room for students to study, but each floor has different voice levels allowed. For example, the base floor is for group work, where talking is permitted, the middle floor is for whispering only, and the top floor is for absolute silence, perfect for exam season. That way, everyone’s needs are met in the environment provided by the university.
While I am sure the architects of the tower took many factors into consideration when making their plans, it does seem like the idea of a library space slipped their minds. I believe that the university would reap large benefits from developing such a space for its student body, namely in terms of achieving the goal of maintaining students on campus, student productivity, and overall student satisfaction with the tower. A little reorganization can go a long way to boost our student experience and make us able to take full advantage of the tower’s capacity for greatness.
Featured image by: Financial Times