Q: ENV PGT students really like this study area and prefer to work here than other IT areas in the library as the PCs are faster, keyboards are better and chairs more comfortable! As a result, this space is often full when the PGR space is not- could the Library allow PGT students to use the PGR space when the PGT area gets crowded?
A: When we consulted with the postgraduate community it was acknowledged that PGTs and PGRs often have quite different needs. PGRs asked for undisturbed study space with power for portable devices over and above the provision of fixed PCs. Hence there are only 5 PCs in the PGR room and these are deliberately placed away from the other study desks to minimise disturbance. By contrast, the PGT usage tends to be more intensive, often for writing dissertations or extended essays. Hence we provided as many PCs as we could in that space whilst again providing some balance in terms of quiet space to read. The point about needing more silent spaces for PC use is well made and we will factor it into future redevelopments where possible, perhaps if funding can be found for refurbishing the IT areas.
Q: The new PGT space is very busy but the new PGR space doesn't look like it’s being heavily used. Can the space be opened up so PGTs can have more study space?
This is frustrating but often there are other high quality spaces available across the Library. Based on experiences at other universities, we anticipated that usage for the PGR would be less intense than for the PGT side. Though not always the case, PGRs are often working for a sustained period with fewer deadlines, whereas PGTs are often working in more intense bursts. If the PGR room was too crowded we think it would put PGRs off actually using it. If we were to open it to PGTs as well, we think it would again fill up immediately and we would be back to the same space problem but then without any space for PGRs! Such a scenario is not what we were funded to provide nor what the postgraduate community as a whole requested.
Q: I don’t like having to renew the locker every 7 days, (even though possible online), and so could you review the need for locker keys to be set to 7 day loan as I am not convinced that they are all being used currently. Q: Every time I need a locker for study room in PGT there are never any available but there are always plenty of lockers available in PGR. I wonder if this supply-demand issue could be rectified somehow?
The usage of lockers in both spaces has been high and we estimated that the 7 day loan would be the best possible balance between supply (duration of loan) and demand. Occasionally there are more available in the PGR room but we would prefer to keep it that way so that PGRs are not put off from using the space. As an alternative, we have since moved all our other locker provision to the same 7 day system to help improve availability although obviously there will never be enough for every PG students. The lockers are primarily for use when studying in the Library, not just a general bookable locker for university-wide use.
Q: In past years you had 16 monthly carrels available for PGRs? Why has this changed?
A: We realise some PGRs preferred individual study rooms but with up to 1,500 PGR students at UEA, in practice only a very few students were actually getting access to these 16 rooms. The new room provides access for 39 people with 60 lockers.
When rooms were bookable for one month, the number of perpetually disappointed PGR students on waiting lists for the study carrels completely outnumbered the number of students who benefitted from them. Our regular checks also recorded that occupancy was actually quite low, with rooms more often than not empty or being used as storage. That is why we have now provided so many new large lockers in the PGR room to meet that known need more effectively.
If you prefer individual study carrels, these can still be booked via the Library Helpdesk, albeit only on a part-day basis (with options to book consecutively).
Q: Why could you not have increased the number of individual study rooms?
A: This would have required an extension to the Main Library which is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. In addition, if we had provided more, we know the same problems would still have emerged concerning under-occupancy and use for storage rather than study. With so many students, we need to make best use of the spaces available.
Q: I don't find the open plan layout as helpful as a single study room.
A: We realise this is a compromise situation. The Library has never been in a position to provide a permanent study space or office for each postgraduate student. What we offer is designed to be just part of a wider university-wide drive to try to meet the needs for high quality study space for PGRs across the university. What is different about our offering is that it is 24/7, with security presence in the building at night, and with convenient access to library stock. The one week duration of our locker loans, with options to renew, reflects the fact that we expect PGRs to use these facilities occasionally, for a few days or weeks, rather than to move in permanently!
Q: Why did you layout the space like this?
A: We consulted with the GSA and Students' Union and other representatives from the PGR community on the layout, as well as the Student Support Service for accessibility options. Based on feedback we have tried to provide a variety of spaces with large desks and sufficient privacy to be able to work without distraction, but also without feeling oppressive. We hope that the open nature of the room and the inspiring views will help create an atmosphere conducive to research. As requested we have provided power and additional lights to each table and provided a minimal number of fixed PCs (which have quiet keyboards) to help keep this space as quiet as possible.
We also visited other universities including Queen Mary (University of London) and Leicester University, both of which had dedicated spaces for PGR students. It is still unusual to find such dedicated provision in universities but you have been telling us for some time that our previous provision was inadequate.
Having said all this, whilst we know many will be happy with the new facilities, we acknowledge they may not suit everyone. Please do feedback any comments you may have and we'll try to take them into account.
Nicholas Lewis, Library Director 1st April 2015. Nicholas.firstname.lastname@example.org