Info Commons opens again

Some students are finding the Taylor Family Digital Library isn’t that much of an improvement yet because of a lack of computer work stations.

The University of Calgary said the facility is a response to student demands for new, improved workstations and will eventually house triple the number of public computers and workrooms. The first phase of construction saw a similar number of workstations, around 80, that the Info Commons in the old MacKimmie Library Block had. MacKimmie Library’s Info Commons has been closed since January, but recently opened as a quiet study space and should have computers running again soon.

Students’ Union vice-president academic Alyssa Stacy said the computers from the older space were distributed across campus and downtown, as the TFDL only houses new equipment.

“I would say the numbers are fairly the same,” Stacy said. “They wanted about double the amount of the MacKimmie Library, but because of budget constraints they had to reduce the amount.”

Stacy said these same budget constraints will eventually see the Info Commons closed altogether.

“Most of the space will be reallocated,” Stacy said. “Until they figure out what they are going to do with it, they are basically wasting a lot of electricity and heating on an empty building.”

“I find it’s really hard to find a computer during peak times,” said fourth-year business student Corey Keller. “It’s very loud, you have to go there understanding that it’s not going to be quiet.”

Keller said he tried to go into the Info Commons to use a computer when the TFDL was full, but found nothing available.

“It’s a bit inconvenient,” agreed fourth-year geophysics student Griffin Smith. “That’s where I used to go to just quickly check stuff.”

Library communications and development director Donna Livingstone said space limitations played a larger role than the budget in restricting the number of workstations in the TFDL.

“We put as many as we possibly could in there and I’m not sure if there would be more room in there,” said Livingstone. “I think what the new space is really doing is responding to students’ need to bring their own laptops. That was one of the big priorities: ‘Give us more plug-ins.’ “

Stacy said the move toward more laptops makes sense for the general student population. For those students without their own computer, Stacy offered other options.

“You can go and rent out a laptop free of charge and then you can find a quiet spot and work on your assignments,” she said.

Livingstone also offered some relief for students upset over the computer removal in the Info Commons.

“It’s actually being reopened,” Livingstone said. “We’re just recognizing that students are under a lot of pressure right now and they’re looking for a quiet space to work.”

The Info Commons will have less workstations than it did previously due to many of the computers being “retired” from use.

“Some of them were fairly old and had been well-used, so they’ve been reviewing them all to make sure that they’re the best possible quality,” she said.

The older computers should be available at the end of the week. The large classrooms are also available for quiet study space, another resource students have been asking for since the new building opened.

“I know students are complaining it is too loud in the TFDL,” said Stacy. “That is really because it is supposed to be loud at the bottom and get quieter at the top.”

The next several floors of the building will house more quiet study space and workstations. The school hopes to have the remaining floors open for September 2011.

The old Info Commons will remain open for the rest of the winter semester with the same hours as the MacKimmie before being reevaluated.

“They’re still looking at [the MacKimmie] right now and assessing what the needs are,” said Livingstone. “We want to be able to respond to the students and that’ll give us a better time over the winter session to see how it’s being used.”

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