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North Cascades Study Area

Students team up with alumni to improve library study space

Large study carrels give students plenty of room for books, laptops, and papers.

Large study carrels give students plenty of room for books, laptops, and papers.

New windows allow light to fill the new study area.

New windows allow light to fill the new study area.

Large, soft chairs give students a place to study quietly together, and large new windows offer beautiful views of Centennial Green.

Large, soft chairs give students a place to study quietly together, and large new windows offer beautiful views of Centennial Green.

When students and alumni come together, great things happen. The recent completion of the North Cascades Study Area in Peterson Memorial Library is a good example of this, where students from the graduating classes of 2014, 2016, and 1966 combined efforts to provide a new study area for students.

The library has always been a go-to study spot for students, offering options for both quiet, individual work and discussion-based, group study. In recent years, however, library staff noted consistent requests from students for more quiet study spaces, and current peer-reviewed research concurs, stressing the importance of quiet communal study areas to student success. Once the need was articulated, the aforementioned classes collaborated and combined resources to fund the project.

“The library renovations over the past couple of years have provided a very nice group study space, but quiet, individual study spaces in bright, comfortable areas are sorely needed,” said Kara McMahon, 2016 senior class president, when she and her class chose to fund the project. “When the class of 1966 met for their 50-year reunion and heard about the project, one of them stood up and said, "if this is important enough to the students that they are giving their money to it, then I think we should support it too",’” recalls Dorita Tessier, director of gift planning at WWU. Their collaborative gift was combined with funds held from the class of 2014 gift and with other private donations to pave the way for the creation of the North Cascades Study Area.

To create the study area, some of the stacks were removed and new carpet and lighting were installed. A bank of large carrels was installed along one wall, each complete with its own power outlets and lighting. “I advocated specifically for the larger study carrels,” says Carolyn Gaskell, director of university libraries. “I had observed that students needed the extra space to accommodate their laptops, smartphones, books, and papers.” Large, soft chairs were also installed in another part of the room, providing another warm and comfortable area for students to quietly study.

Student appreciation was immediate, as Andra Winslow, public service and resource sharing manager, observes, “Even before the installers finished assembling the carrels, students were using them. We hadn’t even pulled off all of the protective wrapping and students were settling in! It’s been exciting to see the space utilized and hear students talk about how much they enjoy using it for focused, quiet study.”

Matthew Moran, senior music and bioengineering double major, was one of the students who benefitted from the North Cascades Study Area. “The new area was filled with personalized study spaces and adjustable chairs, which made my hours of studying much more enjoyable,” he said, adding that, “I also liked the study area’s location and many windows.”

Students from across campus use the new study area, bringing with them their myriad projects and endeavours, fulfilling the wish expressed by Zachary Gilbert, 2014 senior class president, who said,  “It is our desire for these gifts to improve the campus … Since this university has given so much to us, it is our pleasure to give back to continue the excellence in thought, generosity in service, beauty in expression, and faith in God.”

Posted Sept. 11, 2018

Last update on October 1, 2018