Providing safe study space in a pandemic

Transformative Learning | Strategy 15: Student Experience
Theme: Collaboration
The student-staffed front desk at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Last September, UBC Library re-opened the doors of Irving K. Barber Learning Centre for bookable study space. With a combination of physical distancing measures, rigorous safety and cleaning protocols, and an active security presence, current students, faculty and staff have been able to access this essential space.

“We’ve had a really great response from students,” says Julie Mitchell, Associate University Librarian and Director of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Since the building re-opened on September 8, 2020, study space bookings have steadily increased, with nearly 20,000 for the first term, with an average of more than 1,500 bookings per week.

In December, the Library surveyed over 400 students who had previously booked study spaces, and found that over half of them planned to write their exams at IKBLC: “That’s been a game changer for us, especially when it came to planning for exam hours,” says Ms. Mitchell. The team at IKBLC studied the university’s exam schedule to make sure the building would be open to accommodate students who needed a safe, quiet space to take their exams.

Midway through the academic year, another major adjustment was made, this time to the staffing of the front desk. Emma MacFarlane, Learning Commons Coordinator at the Chapman Learning Commons (CLC) recalls: “We realized that a ton of referrals were happening at the front door, whereas in the past, that would always happen up at the CLC desk.” Library users would come in with questions about printing, book returns and academic resource help, that front door security staff weren’t able to answer. In response, the team in IKBLC hired student staff to provide peer-to-peer assistance, check patrons in and provide referrals, with security in a support role nearby.

Please visit the Library website to learn more about how UBC is continuing to provide key resources to students on campus.

Through Strategy 15: Student Experience, we are creating opportunities for students to feel more engaged and better supported during their time at UBC, outside as well as inside the classroom, across all our campuses and learning sites.