McGill launches reimagined study spaces for COVID-19

On Sept. 8, McGill launched Study Hubs, a safe-study alternative to the traditional library experience. The Study Hubs are individual study spaces that are set up in compliance with the university’s COVID-19 safety measures that include the mandatory use of masks and socially distanced study areas. These study spaces are available at the Mclennan-Redpath complex, the Nahum Gelber Law Library, and the Macdonald Campus Library.

Students can gain access to the Study Hubs by booking one three-hour time slot per day. Upon arrival, which can be at any time during the allotted time slot, students must check in with Student Navigators using their McGill IDs. Although the online booking system tracks seat numbers, seating is assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis as students arrive at the library.

Arielle Rosenthal, a Student Navigator at the Redpath Library, explained the Study Hub’s safety procedures.

“Masks are to be worn at all times in the library, except in your chosen seating place,” Rosenthal said. “There is no food allowed, but drinks are allowed in a sealed drink container, and cleaning will occur between each study period.”

U-Print printing services are also available in the McLennan-Redpath complex and the Nahum Gelber Law library to students who book a Study Hub time slot. Power sources are available at 85 per cent of the seats, though library resources recommend having fully charged devices upon arrival. While the new Study Hubs grant students access to library resources, they do not allow students to socialize as circulation in common areas is not permitted.

Lindsay Nissinoff, U3 Arts, who frequented McGill’s libraries before the COVID-19 pandemic, spoke about her reluctance to visit the Study Hubs.

“I am personally apprehensive about trying these new spaces, mainly due to the three-hour time limit and the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Montreal,” Nissinoff said. “While I praise the university for attempting to resume in-person activities, I personally would prefer to study outside while the weather permits.”

Mathilde Genest, U3 Arts and Science, has a different outlook on the Study Hubs.

“I was a little uncertain about the Study Hubs. However, after actually coming to the library and seeing all the measures that were put in place, I am looking forward to coming back,” Genest said. “I will say the limited time slots will pose a challenge, but I felt safe and the library was pretty transparent about the procedure. I feel like I need to be able to study somewhere else than home from time to time, and the Study Hubs seem to be the safest option.”

Katherine Hanz, liaison librarian at McGill, explained that the health of students and staff was prioritized during the creation of the Study Hubs which presented the best solution for staff and students. 

“Creating a safe space for study was a top priority with both the set-up and running of the Hubs,” Hanz said. “A number of measures have been put in place to keep students and library personnel safe. While the Hubs may not feel exactly like the pre-COVID library, we are so happy to be able to welcome students back in this capacity and to be able to provide a safe place for study.”

The new Study Hubs gives students a chance to use library resources while being able to study in a quiet environment. Additionally, the Study Hubs strictly follow the directives from the Quebec Ministry and McGill’s protocols for COVID-19. Nonetheless, there is still apprehension to use the shared spaces, especially as on Sept. 20 when Montreal rose from Level 1 to Level 2 under the progressive regional alert and intervention system for COVID-19.

The interview with Genest took place in French and was translated by the author.

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