It is late October, the New Haven air has chilled, and Yale is suffused with all the hallmarks of midterm season.
Students have traded their Old Campus study blankets for seats in Sterling Memorial Library’s reading rooms. Campus recycling bins brim with notebook paper and discarded problem sets. Stressed-out Yalies scurry to review sessions and study sessions with friends.
And yet, one of midterm season’s most familiar landmarks remains conspicuously absent this year: Construction workers — not frantic students — fill Cross Campus Library, the popular study spot that is now in the middle of a fifteen-month-long renovation. Despite CCL’s closure, many students said they have still been able to find quiet places to hit the books. Still, with reading period only a couple months away and complaints of crowding in the University’s other libraries, Yale College Council representatives are working to make more study areas available to students.
The construction, which began in May, shut down CCL and split Cross Campus with its sprawling work zone. Though CCL’s books and staff have been transferred to neighboring SML, the library’s popular study areas, including its “weenie bins” and large computer cluster, remain off-limits.
Associate University Librarian Danuta Nitecki said administrators have worked to ease the loss by opening additional study space, extending SML’s hours, and transferring the CCL computer cluster to Sterling’s nave. SML is now open until 1:45 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights. As of Monday, SML reopened its Linonia and Brothers reading room to make more quiet study space available to students.
Nitecki also said SML’s new policy of admitting only those with Yale IDs after six p.m. has helped keep evening use of the library “more focused.”
“We don’t have as many people wandering into the building,” she said. “Students who are really looking for a place to study are able to use the library.”
So far, Nitecki said, the library staff has not heard many complaints.
Many students said they have been able to find space in both SML and the residential college libraries to replace their old CCL study spots.
“I can imagine that it would be nice to have another place to study late at night that’s not a tomb,” Cordelia Istel ’10 said. “But every time I’ve been at Sterling, it’s been fine.”
James Gerson ’07, who studies mainly in the Davenport College library, said that he has not felt personally pressed by CCL’s closure, though he does understand that it creates an inconvenience for some students. With CCL unavailable until the start of next year’s fall term, Gerson and other students have noticed an increase in the usage of residential college libraries, especially during midterms.
“The Davenport library has definitely become more crowded,” Gerson said. “A lot more freshmen especially are working there than would normally be, because they have to walk from Old Campus no matter what library they go to. Now a lot of them are coming to residential college libraries instead of CCL.”
These and similar observations worry YCC representative J.S. Bolton ’08. Bolton, together with her YCC colleagues, is at work on a plan to open residential college dining halls at night as study areas.
Bolton said she and her friends have noticed that good working space has been hard to come by this year.
“At Sterling, a lot of the rooms are crowded,” she said. “Book Trader, Starbucks, even some of the really out-of-the-way coffeehouses can be so crowded you can’t even find a spot.”
Bolton said the YCC has discussed its plan with University administrators through the Council of Masters. So far, she said, they have met with some success: Calhoun, Saybrook and Pierson colleges currently keep their dining halls open late for studying. Bolton said she hopes that all colleges will soon follow their lead.
The issue of study space availability is just one thing students worry about as construction continues. Many students also said loud noise at the work site has frustrated them. According to Nitecki, the CCL contractors have tried to minimize noise by adding insulation to work zone walls and by performing most of the loudest work early in the morning. Still, noise does leak through, and students who have classes in nearby Harkness Hall or who study in SML have become accustomed to a faint soundtrack of machinery.
“The noise is definitely distracting,” Matt Riley GRD ’08 said. “Sometimes, I’ve had to move from the SML reading rooms because of all the hammering.”
Other students said the visual effect of the Cross Campus work zone has also frustrated them.
“Aesthetically, Cross Campus was beautiful, with people always playing football and whiffle ball out there on the green,” Matt Huttner ’07 said. “It’s great that Yale’s keeping up with renovations, but in my senior year, to have Cross Campus blocked off, it’s not so great.”
Even so, Huttner said he is more concerned about the availability of study space in CCL’s absence. Huttner, who spent much of his studying time in the CCL’s weenie bins, said the real test of whether Yale has sufficiently replaced the library’s study areas will be finals.
That’s exactly what Bolton is worried about.
“[What the University had done] is not enough,” she said. “It’ll become apparent during finals. It’ll be ridiculous.”