Author: John Loizeaux
With midterm exams in full swing, most students are trying to find a quiet place to study. There are a variety of places to choose from, one of which should be the Academic Commons. However, the current layout and mentality in the Academic Commons doesn’t support the environment that is necessary for effective studying. The large number of classes scheduled in the Academic Commons blurs the line between study space and teaching space. In addition, there is a lack of designated silent study space, which should be the main feature of any space reserved for studies, library or not. Overall, the Academic Commons’ goal of one-stop-shop studying goes too far, providing too many services in one location.
Yes, finding spaces to hold classes will always be a problem on such a small campus, and the Johnson Hall remodel only compounds this problem. However, holding classes in the Academic Commons is disruptive to those trying to study. Some classrooms are adjacent to designated quiet study areas and walls between these rooms are not nearly thick enough to prevent the classes from being heard in the adjoining rooms. When students move between these classrooms in passing periods, they often disregard the space they are in by speaking loudly. This defeats the purpose of areas such as the Ahmanson Foundation Reading Room, which is supposed to be a comfortable oasis for people in search of peaceful places to study.
There will inevitably be loud and rude groups in the library, but labeling it as the Academic Commons contributes to the widespread mentality that Occidental’s library is not a focused place to study. Common areas are often associated with social activities, and the current name provides a paradoxical description of a place that is studious yet social. Even though the library has the CAE and other tutoring services that are both academic and social, they must remain separated from the quiet study spaces. For instance, the majority of group study should be confined to the bottom floor near the CAE and the group study rooms on the first floor. If these places are full, groups should be mindful of taking over other spaces where people are trying to study quietly.
While group study is important, it cannot be the main focus of the library. There are too many open spaces on each floor of the building that lend themselves more to groups than individuals. A remedy for this problem would be to designate each floor as either a group study or individual study area. Even though there are areas such as the quiet study cubicles on the top floor, they are too close to large tables where groups often congregate. There are alternate places on campus that provide great spaces for groups, such as the Green Bean, the Samuelson Pavilion and residence hall common rooms. Of these three places, common rooms are currently the most underutilized. Many common rooms have the same spacious tables as the Academic Commons, but they are in places that openly welcome sociality.
The Academic Commons is a great building with high quality resources. However, it is misguided in the way it currently provides services to students. First, the issue of classroom space needs to be resolved to minimize disruption to students in the library. The college also needs to make changes in space allocation to provide more spaces geared toward focused studying. In addition to expanding the designated quiet areas, some form of enforcement of the existing quiet study locations such as frequent rounds by library staff could be useful. The problem with this is that it would be an unnecessary burden for them because students should be able to conduct themselves appropriately. The most effective solution is a change in student perceptions of the library. If everyone is mindful of each other, there is no need for supervision. With these improvements, the Academic Commons could become the central study area that this campus really needs.
John Loizeaux is a junior economics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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