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Spotlight: Building a Quiet Study Lounge

eNews Edition: Spring 2024

Contributed by Ross Kendall, Course Reserves & Curricular Resources Lead

The fourth-floor east wing of the CSUN University Library originally contained a disparate grouping of furniture; long rows of cubicle style desk space, several oak tables, a number of dining style tables and chairs serving as study surfaces, and somewhat mismatched soft seating. It was functional, but did not fully serve the idea of a quiet study space.

When the Reserves, Periodicals, & Microform (RPM) collections moved to the first floor and the service point was discontinued, the resulting removal of the bookstacks left a sizable amount of empty floorspace. It was determined that the goal would be to create a space for quiet, individual study. The Library contains numerous traditional study carrels, mostly on the fourth floor, which is zoned for quiet study. But while looking into typical carrel options, a new style of study furniture had come to the market: the study pod.

Short video tour of our study pods

A study pod is similar to a library carrel; there’s a seat, a work surface, and a privacy wall. However, while the carrel’s wall is limited to the work surface and only covers the student’s front, leaving the user’s sides and back exposed, the study pod encompasses the user’s whole body, with an opening to enter the pod from the side, giving a greater sense of security and privacy. The philosophy behind the pod is to provide the student with a place of more intense focus. They are also wired for power for devices such as phones, tablets, and laptops; essential tools for the modern college student.

Several universities have acquired pods for their quiet study areas, many in rooms similar to the old RPM space. One in particular is the library at the University of Central Florida, which has a quiet study area with pods and tables of several different models. The spirit of this lounge design could work for the University Library’s newly named Quiet Study Lounge. These pods would not just fill the empty space, but also replace the existing furniture and bring some continuity and functionality to the wing.

There are several types of pods on the market, and after careful consideration, two were chosen as demonstration units, and students were invited to try them out and provide feedback. The demonstration period lasted two weeks, and an hour after installation, students were already using the pods. Gathering feedback from both comment forms and an impromptu focus group from student workers, an interesting result surfaced. Only looking at the numbers, one product was the winner. However, a significant number of comments indicated that students saw both pods as useful. One had a larger work surface, which was ideal for course work and laptop usage, while the other’s semi-reclined chair and tablet arm was more comfortable for reading and long study sessions. This was a lesson at looking not just at the numbers, but also taking into account the impressions of the students using this furniture.

Our Campus Quality Fee (CQF) proposal was approved, and the Library received funding for ten of each type of pod. Furthermore, since CSUN has a sizable community of students needing accommodations, the Library needed to also purchase an accessible pod. Consulting with CSUN’s Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) department, options for an accessible pod were explored. DRES recommended an adjustable table and easy access to power. None of the pods on the market offered anything matching this, so our vendor was able to custom build an accessible pod that could accommodate a student using a wheelchair, as well as a student with a service dog, a student with an oxygen tank, or any number of students needing accommodation.

In June 2023, the pods were installed, and by fall semester, they were a hit with students. A second CQF proposal was funded, and the next phase of pods were installed in January 2024.

Responses gathered from surveys have been very positive. Several students identify as having ADHD, and have used the pods to cut down on distractions. A handful of Library Instagram posts regarding the pods, both from the Library and individual students, show lively engagement and positive comments.

The Library has applied for another CQF to finish the Quiet Study Lounge, and should it be fully funded, this will bring the total pods to 51. In addition to pods, the proposal includes partitioned tables with a larger work surface, and combined with dividers would give some of the privacy benefits a pod. Elsewhere in the Quiet Study Lounge, benching worktables are planned for the east window to give students a study spot with a view of Matador Square, and lounge seating is planned for the south alcove to create a small reading nook with a view of the Library lawn and Sierra Quad. Each table, pod, and seat would have power provided for students to charge their devices.

The goal of the University Library’s Quiet Study Lounge as advertised is, “a tranquil place for individual study.” With proper selection of furniture that discourages conversation and allows for a single student to focus on their studies, that goal will continue to be realized.