Will Students Pay $14 Per Quarter for New Study Space… that’s not located in a library?

April 18, 2011, 9:43 am

Today kicks off our campus election. I always love this process; it is the same everywhere: you have a group of super energized people who go out there rah rah rah, trying to reach a mass of apathetic people who have no idea what student government is or are cynical toward it.

I am particularly interested in one measure involving study space:

University Center (UCen) – Student Study Space Renovation and Support Fee.

In a nutshell they are asking students to pay $14 per quarter (for 27 years) in order to develop an underutilized area in the student center building. Here is what they are proposing:

  • Group study rooms
  • Computer labs
  • Study lounge
  • Power outlets for every seat
  • Scenic views
  • Longer hours

Here are some photos:

Study_loft1 Loft2 Loft3

Hmmm, looks pretty much like every renovation that academic libraries have been building over the past decade. If you substitute library for university center you really could not tell the difference.

We’re supporting this measure because we’d love to see more study space around campus—it fills a definite need and takes some pressure off our facilities. Our library has 2,400 seats (ballpark) but of course students don’t always sit right beside each other so there is some loss. I estimate that we can comfortably accommodate 1,800— but our FTE is 18,000 so obviously we can only handle a fraction of our population.

We let the University Center place signs around our building and we gave them information about our upcoming construction project as a means of building support for their proposition. Because we are going to temporary lose 20% of our public space during renovation it would benefit the students to have this additional new space nearby.

I have to admit that my initial instinct was one of competition. The library is very old and here was a nicer, newer, shiner place encroaching on one of our core products: study space. The University Center (on every campus) is very much like a mall and here I saw them trying to usurp our role. Why do we need a library when we can study in the UCen?

But then I realized that I had fallen victim to the library-centered point of view. Fear and perhaps a small sense of entitlement were driving my thinking. Once I stepped back and took a more holistic perspective then it was obviously that this would be a great asset for campus and the students. A variety of study locations are better for everyone. Additionally, supporting the measure could give us inroads to future joint programming. With the combination of our renovation and the UCen’s Loft—the study environment at UCSB would improve vastly.

If the fee doesn’t go through then I hope they will try and get it funding by someone like Citrix. I’d like to see lots of study outposts spread out across campus.

Reflecting on “Studying”
The more I thought about their project the word that kept lurking in my mind was “study.” They are dubbing this project the Study Loft, and while studying is obviously a predominate theme for libraries, we represent more than that; we bind ourselves with the larger academic mission. We strive to be a major player in the process.

Teaching. Learning. Access. Discovery. These are our keywords—studying is just a component of that but not the major thrust. The University Center is looking to enhance studying, and I’m OK with that because I’m not in the study business; our mission is larger. It’s sort of like the difference between a student and a scholar. It also reminds me of being at Georgia Tech when the “information commons” evolved into a “learning commons”—information is a commodity, while learning is a cornerstone of the academy.

So I’m curious to see—will students pay for a place to study? I’ll find out next week.

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