Now that the famed Geisel Library is closed and will remain so for the entire Fall Quarter, students will have to create their own study spaces.
The status of Geisel Library is still uncertain. On the official UC San Diego website, the only in-person activity available is an in-person consultation with a librarian for help with research. There is no access to the various study spaces that Geisel offers. The library instead offers a long list of remote services now, including an online reserve for books. Students will have to turn to alternative study places for this upcoming quarter.
The research points to the impact of closing the school library as something that really affects the learning process of students. The Australian Council for Educational Research published a study in 2008 that attempted to figure out what impact the school library has on the student’s feelings towards the school.
“There’s very strong evidence to suggest that students tend to be more engaged with learning on the whole if they engage with library resources, interact with library staff, and spend time using libraries,” ACER said in its published study.
ACER’s results point to a correlation between how much students learn and how often they are at the library. The way students learn comes from the information stored in the books and the study spaces that the school offers.
Geisel Library offers different types of studying spots. The first two floors are meant for groups of students to talk among themselves at a normal volume. It creates a floor full of chatter, with desks and tables for individual students that want some background noise.
The third floor offers a more quiet experience, with noise turned down to whispers and desks facing windows that allow students to view Warren College, Price Center, or some tall trees. The layout and noise is the same all the way up to the seventh floor. The top floor is labeled as “silent,” with no talking or eating allowed and is made for students that want absolute silence so they can read or study. Study rooms are sprinkled all throughout the building, which can be reserved ahead of time or used if they are open in between appointment times.
While providing all the features to be a productive study space, it is difficult to determine how useful studying at the library is. Dr. Katharine Hall, who published “Silent and Independent: Student Use of Academic Library Study Space,” led a study to quantify what students do at the school library and how often they come back.
“The purpose and place of libraries on university campuses is changing. Only 35% of survey respondents come to the library to borrow material while 84% visit the library to use the quiet study space,” Hall said in her study. “The majority of respondents use the library several times per week (77.6%). A good number of them (37%) also need to meet in teams on a weekly basis as part of their school work.”
Additionally, students use study rooms that are created for groups to study together. These rooms are remote and quiet so there can be communication within. Students use these as a way to get multiple classmates or a few friends in one room outside of class to study together. Hall found that there was a significant portion of students that took advantage of these specialized rooms.
“The frequency with which students meet for group work with 37% of respondents meeting weekly (1-7 times per week), another 21% meeting 1–2 times per month, and 42% meeting rarely or never,” Hall said in her study. “This is somewhat different from Brown-Sica’s findings, which had a higher frequency of group work with 50% of participants meeting weekly, 36% monthly, and 14% meeting rarely (226).”
School libraries’ group-setting provides a social advantage that few other study locations can offer. Roger Revelle College junior Zack Kumar spoke to The UCSD Guardian about this specific advantage that Geisel holds above other options.
“I would go to Geisel due to the social environment that would form by studying with friends,” Kumar said. “I am going to miss that aspect of it, but it won’t really affect my grades or studying habits too much. The vibes at that place were always nice to be around.”
Geisel’s closure affects students that live off-campus and spend long periods of time on campus. Revelle College junior Charlie Le addressed the impact that Geisel being closed down has on off-campus students. Some students rely on Geisel as their go-to study spot because of the long periods of time that they are on campus in between classes or events.
“I have a lot of friends that are really bummed out that there will not be a library to go study at,” Le told The Guardian. “They all live off-campus, which meant that they would spend a lot of time at Geisel whenever they had class or something else to attend.”
Several Tritons did not frequent the library until they had built up a large backlog of work that needed to be done. Revelle College Junior Hieu Trung relied on Geisel in order to do some intense studying before a test or a large amount of homework.
“Geisel was one of the places that I went to in order to get some serious work done,” Trung said. “I wouldn’t go often, but it was really reliable whenever I needed to get some stuff done. I still did the majority of work in my room, so I have to be able to be that productive in my room now.”
Now, students will turn to alternative study locations in order to achieve academic success. One of these alternatives is the bedroom. Every student has access to one and it will be what they mainly rely on. Le is one of those students that would simply use his room whether Geisel is open or not.
“I studied in my room for spring and I’m going to do that again this year. It is where I am the most comfortable,” Le said. “I have done really well in my room so there is no reason to change what isn’t broken.”
Le isn’t the only one that has a preference for his bedroom when it comes to studying. Kumar is going to be studying alone in his room for the upcoming quarter.
“I studied in my bedroom for the previous spring quarter. I studied at my desk for the majority of the school year before Covid,” Kumar said. “I plan on doing so this upcoming quarter since there is still no other option with Geisel being closed. I am most comfortable studying alone and I only used Geisel as a change of pace.”
Research shows these two students are not unique in their preference for studying in their rooms. Ronald Beckers did a study on where students decide to study. His article, “Why do they study there,” features a conclusion that highlights what students value.
“Study respondents also suggest a strong desire for quiet, private to semi private, individual space to work alone,” Beckers said in his study. “Across work/study modes, ‘working out in the open’ was considered least desirable, indicating that visual and acoustical privacy are important. To accommodate these needs, providing a combination of spaces, including space set aside for quiet/silent, private, individual work, is necessary within the larger learning commons design, something that is evident from this study’s results as well as other recent studies.”
Additionally, Beckers found certain advantages to an isolated study environment. Students can take advantage of the privacy that being alone in a room brings by listening to music or taking breaks with their own means. There is also time saved from either driving or walking to the library on certain days which they don’t have classes.
Zoom sessions among students are used to replicate the social advantage that the library has. Students can talk to each other and have similar conversations to those in person. All UCSD students have access to the premium version of Zoom that allows them to have a call as long as they want. While not being the same as meeting in person, it allows students face-to-face collaboration on assignments and study sessions.
Geisel Library is closed for the foreseeable future. It presents challenges for students that enjoy studying with other students in person or simply like studying at the library when they have a lot of work to do. Others will simply continue grinding their schoolwork from their own room. In a time full of adjustments, some UCSD students are losing their favorite study spot for another quarter, while first-year students won’t be able to figure out if Geisel is their favorite spot.
Art by Yui Kita for The UCSD Guardian.