Miller: Scarce Senior Studies

by Jon Miller | 10/26/14 6:09pm

Although most students may be unaware of it, Baker-Berry Library offers scholar study spaces to seniors writing honors theses. These are private spaces which guarantee that students working on senior theses always have quiet places in the library to work. I have learned about these as I plan to write a thesis and I believe that they can be highly beneficial to students. However, the library’s current setup and the allocation of scholar studies mean that students cannot use these spaces to their maximum effect.

There are a total of 69 “slots” spread over 49 scholar studies in Baker-Berry Library. There are 12 each in the hallways that branch off the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the Baker stacks and an additional 13 on the seventh floor. Some of them allow for double occupancy, bringing the total number of possible spaces to 69. However, of these 49 rooms, only the 12 located on the fourth floor of the stacks are designated for undergraduate and graduate students.

There are specifically 12 rooms for undergraduates and graduate students, and so with double occupancy, this allows for a mere 24 spots out of 69 possible for graduate and undergraduate students. Considering that half of these 24 spots are for graduate students, that leaves a mere 12 spots for undergraduates (or put another way, only 17.4 percent of the spaces are directly accessible to undergraduate students). Although a few faculty have “doubles” which they share with other faculty, all other faculty have singles that are unavailable to undergraduates or graduate students. Since more than 200 members of the Class of 2014 wrote theses, 12 slots is clearly an inadequate number of scholar studies.

While the slots accessible to the lucky undergraduates that can get them seem to be heavily used, I have almost never seen faculty members in their spaces — and I study in the Baker stacks almost every day. The fact that faculty, faculty emeriti and administrators are designated 65 percent of the total spaces (even more if you consider that the singles which exist could be converted to doubles) seems inappropriate since they hardly seem to use them. While these individuals have offices, off-campus homes and labs or departmental offices in which to work, the average undergraduate senior lacks access to these alternative work spaces.

In light of this, the scholar studies should be allocated to undergraduates in a much higher proportion. They provide a valuable resource because they guarantee that undergraduates always have a quiet place in the library to work and to store their thesis-related books. Every winter and spring (the prime thesis-writing quarters), seniors are turned away from and denied access to the scholar studies simply because there is not enough space to accommodate everyone.

The group in charge of the allocation of the scholar study spaces is the Council on Libraries. In 2002, this group opened the scholar studies to undergraduates (as amazing as it would seem that before this time, the spaces were apparently completely unavailable to undergraduates). In 2006, the council made real progress on how the spaces would be assigned. By this time, the council acknowledged that scholar studies were in “high demand” with undergraduate students, especially seniors working on honors theses. But eight years later, it is time that more is done.

More slots need to be opened up to the senior class. If nothing else, then the faculty scholar studies which are currently designated as single rooms should be designated as doubles, so that there can be more than 69 total slots associated with these 49 rooms. This would allow undergraduate and graduate students to access more of a resource they desperately need, while not detracting from the overall number of slots for faculty, faculty emeriti and administrators.