Crowded Library forces students to improvise

Groups of students sit huddled around tables or clustered in circles on the floor. Unlucky individuals wander through rows of computer cubicles like birds of prey waiting to swoop down on the first empty stall. The line for a coffee at Starbucks stretches 20 students long, out of the coffee nook and into the lobby.

It’s the week before finals at the USF Library, and it’s crowded.

“I like it better when it’s barren,” said Danny Rojas, a graduate student in industrial engineering, as he squatted on his heels next to classmates Natsuko Kawasumi and Brian Bright. Unable to find an open table on the first floor, the three knelt on the carpet and put the final touches on a term paper for their Intermediate Financial Accounting III class.

Rojas wasn’t the only student looking for a place to work. With final exams looming and the crush of final projects and term papers in full force, students are flocking to the Library, and some are finding they have to deal with some added inconveniences. Finding open study rooms, places to plug in laptops and even empty tables can make for a challenge, especially for students arriving during peak hours.

“It’s always busy, but at exam times it definitely gets even busier,” said Skye Rodgers, the communications manager of the Library.

To avoid some of the hassles, Rodgers suggested that students fully charge their laptops before coming to the Library in case a workspace next to an open outlet isn’t available. She also said that the Library has 19 laptops that students can check out for use inside the building.

Some lesser-known study areas, such as the northwest corner of the second floor and the Library’s basement, also give students looking for study space some additional options, said Rodgers, who also recommended that students looking to avoid the crowds come early in the mornings or late in the evenings.

However, some resourceful students have their own ideas. Elisabeth Jones, who was studying for an exam in her Foundations of Engineering course with classmate Golfie Kagswast, brought a power strip from home so they could both plug into one outlet.

“I was anticipating that there might not be an outlet,” Jones said. “This is a busy week. I’ve been here every day.”

Groups of students unable to find workspaces on the first floor found spots in the lobbies of the second, third and fifth floors. Danielle Alston, studying with three classmates for her Chemistry I lab in the fifth floor lobby, said her group had trouble finding a place on the first floor to plug in their laptops.

“I’m not sure what anyone can do about it,” Alston said. “We have so many students here.”

That number of students is growing, so the USF Library, which was originally made to hold about 2,300 students, has taken measures over the last year and a half to increase the number of group study spaces. Improvements started in summer 2005 with the first-floor remodeling that created the Information Commons. Since then, the Library has added a new group study room on the second floor and created collaborative computer workstations on the first floor.

“We’ve been attempting to address the shortage of study space for students,” Rodgers said. “But with these changes we also wanted to make the Library less formal, to get rid of that stereotype of the librarian with the glasses and the finger over her lips saying ‘Ssssh.'”

Rodgers also said Library administrators were mulling over other potential remedies. The most expensive of these would be building a new Library. A project like that would cost upward of $1.5 million, Rodgers said. Additionally, administrators are considering renovations and additions to the current building and moving more materials into storage, where they could be retrieved upon request.