Students search for study spaces


The Daily Illini File Photo

The Undergraduate Library sits empty on Nov. 15. The UGL has had limited capacity for study spaces since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

By Jared Ebanks, Assistant Features Editor

The back of Ben Laurx’s desk chair rests inches away from the foot of his bed. On the adjacent wall, a whiteboard hangs with scrawlings of notes, reminders and dates. Post-it notes liter the surrounding space of the wall like planets orbiting around the streaky, discolored whiteboard. 

“I’m just happy if I make it out of bed,” Laurx said.

Taking a 10-minute walk to the UGL for an all-nighter or sitting down at Starbucks in the Illini Union to knock out a few assignments hasn’t been an option for students since Spring 2020. Besides the desk in a dorm room or apartment, few locations exist around campus where students can safely practice social distancing while studying.

Coffee shops like Espresso Royale and Starbucks are out of the picture as they’ve removed all seating options. 

However, students venturing into yet another pandemic impacted semester have acclimated well to the constant surrounding of the walls of their rooms.

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    Laurx is a junior in AHS who spent last semester on campus. In his first two years at the University, the ACES library was his go-to study space. 

    “It has good natural lighting. The whole place is quiet so it’s easy to focus. And I think it’s a lot more conducive to studying rather than the UGL which can sometimes turn into a social hour,” Laurx said. 

    While libraries across campus offer reservation only study rooms, these spaces can fill extremely quickly. ACES only offers six study rooms for reservation and the UGL’s max capacity is one per room. Students spent a majority of their first semester rolling out of bed, taking a few steps to their desks, and logging into zoom lectures. The current temperatures outside will only increase the latter. 

    “With the winter months being so miserable, sometimes I’d rather stay at my own place. If I had a car or a friend who has a car I’ll hop in and get a ride over there, but if I have to make a 5-10 minute walk, it’s not that worth it,” Laurx said. 

    While some students prefer the vibrant energy of the first floor on the UGL, others need pin-drop silence for optimum focus. For Laurx the smallest distractions within the UGL can be a break from strenuous studying, making the work slightly easier. 

    “But if I’m hunkering down studying for a final or working on an essay, I need all the distractions gone. Either the quiet floor of the UGL or the ACES library where I just pop in headphones and work,” Laurx said. 

    For students outside of University housing, venturing beyond their room for studying is an increased challenge. For students living in dorms, some spaces remain open. 

    Chelsea Hamilton, Senior Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing for University Housing, echoed housing’s priority to offer residence hall students spaces outside of their dorm room to study. Both the first and second floor of the SDRP Learning Commons, as well as the Ikenberry Commons Library, will remain open to students this semester. 

    “Furniture in these locations have been arranged specifically to follow social distancing guidelines and face coverings are required at all times. To further reinforce the face-covering requirement and ensure the safety of those using these spaces, there is now a no food or drink policy in these three locations,” Hamilton said over an email. 

    Unlike the UGL and ACES, the smaller seminar rooms in the SDRP that were once reserve-only are not available this semester in accordance with the SHIELD Committee and Chancellor Jones’ essential activities regulations. 

    On Feb. 8th, University housing will reevaluate the openings of these spaces.

    Inside the second-floor learning commons, lies the Ikenberry residence hall library.

    The University Library system spent the majority of last semester transitioning their complete print collection into an online format. Residence hall libraries were not included in the transition as they receive their own reduced budget for such processes. 

    However, unlike the University library, ISR and Ike’s libraries remain open for students to request and checkbooks out from. With a limit of two patrons, Laura Poulosky, Residence Hall Librarian, says their system has run effectively. 

    “We are allowing people to check things out of our location. We’re able to do touch screen checkouts by scanning the back of an I-card. And then we’re quarantining items for three days upon return before they go back into circulation,” Poulosky said. 

    While somewhat tucked away, the residence hall library can be extremely useful for undergraduate students who have questions about navigating the multitude of services both the residence and university libraries offer. The residence hall librarians are welcoming, warm and more than willing to help students who find themselves in the commons. 

    “It went really well last semester. We do want to be able to help students because University library services are a little more limited right now than usual so we want to be a point of access,” Poulosky said. 

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