As students flee frigid outside temperatures to take online classes and study in on-campus spaces, libraries have adapted, adding new seats and opening up more spaces.
Despite these additions, some students have decided to stay at home or pull up a chair in non-reservation spaces like Klarman Hall to avoid the influx of students and the reservation requirements. According to Bonna Boettcher, interim associate University librarian, libraries are much busier this semester.
Campus study spaces have accommodated about 1,500 additional students in Ithaca this semester — the library system adding just under 100 additional socially-distanced seats, for a total of about 950, while opening spaces on the third floor of Mann Library and in other locations.
When making plans to study at most of the spaces available on campus, including those in libraries and some buildings like Goldwin Smith Hall, students must reserve a one-hour study block through the Cornell Chatter website. This has irritated some students, eager for longer stretches of time to complete their homework.
“I have reserved spots a couple times, and it’s annoying because you can only book an hour at a time,” said Manavii Kumar ’21. “So if you want the room for multiple hours, you have to make multiple reservations. It’s also really hard to reserve rooms. The good rooms get booked pretty fast.”
To address some of the challenges students face finding a place to study, Cornell has opened up more seating. Non-Industrial and Labor Relations students can study on the first floor of Catherwood Library. Olin, Uris and Mann libraries also added limited seating, so students can wait inside before their reservations begin.
This semester, Chatter now includes more specific searches for study spots. Students can now filter by factors including whether a room has a white board or chalkboard, and if food and drink are allowed.
According to Boettcher, while high-demand seats in locations like the A.D. White Library fill up quickly, libraries “have always had seats available.” However, this has not been all students’ experience.
Restrictions on-campus study spaces can be frustrating for some students. Even with study spaces that don’t require reservations — seats are hard to come by.
“I don’t remember Klarman being this crowded,” said Ilana Schachter ’22. “Usually we could always find a table, but now it’s harder, and the dining halls are also really busy.”
Schachter prefers studying in places like Martha Van Rensselaer that are less crowded. It also has study spaces that don’t require reservations, similar to the Klarman atrium.
Christopher Capunay ’21 spent last semester taking classes from home and arrived this spring to a radically different campus environment. He reflected on pre-COVID semesters, when there would be seating by Goldie’s Cafe and he could recognize familiar, unmasked faces. His favorite spot, though, was the Olin basement.
“It would be like mutual studying, in between we would talk about random things, go back up to Cafe Jennie,” Capunay said. He hasn’t been back to Olin this semester, partly because the reservation process caught him off guard.
Capunay said online classes have been more difficult to manage, and assignments can seem to pop out of nowhere. He spends more time studying in his room than semesters past, and misses having interaction with others.
Hailey Shapiro ’22 is also new to Cornell’s COVID-19 campus, after taking a leave of absence last semester and studying abroad in spring 2020. She’s been satisfied taking classes and studying in her room in her small co-op house, and also only just learned about the Chatter reservation system.
Having to wear a mask when it fogs up her glasses through icy Ithaca weather has been another annoyance. Overall, however, Shapiro says she is grateful that Cornell could recreate some semblance of a normal semester.