McFarlin Library has transitioned their iLab B to a student study lounge and upgraded the computers from thin clients to actual computers in iLab A, the two connected computer rooms on the main floor of the library. Sure, it comes at the cost of half of the computers during midterms, but it’s also about time that students got a more accessible study lounge.
Thin clients are basically computers that rely on servers instead of their hard drives to do the work of computing, which means that the new computers in iLab A should run faster and have fewer problems connecting to the server. The new study lounge will be open 24 hours a day, just like the old computer lab did, and still has two printers which can be accessed from iLab A. Additionally, the printer in the room between the two labs is still available for people who need to print from their personal devices, although there are conflicting reports about how usable the student body actually finds this printer.
The loss of the extra computers might be difficult when rushing to the library to print an assignment ten minutes before it’s due. The timing itself could definitely have been better. Right in the middle of midterms? It’s not a great time for students to realize they now have to wait for a computer to frantically print their essays before dashing off. But on the whole, students adjusting their schedules to be a few minutes earlier to compensate for the loss of half the computers isn’t a huge issue. After all, most students have their own laptop. Students without laptops or in a rush should also have an easier time getting their work done, making computer time more efficient.
What is most frustrating is the setup of the new lounge. Library workers do not know of any plans to update the furniture, which is currently just rolling chairs and long tables. It can be difficult to meet up with others or establish personal space with everyone crowded around the tables. The room still looks like an impersonal computer room used mainly to print assignments and grudgingly meet with your classmates for group projects due in the next couple of days. It certainly does not foster a welcoming environment the way that the lounge just upstairs does, with its different kinds of seating and tables.
These are all valid concerns. But when was the last time both labs were overflowing of people? Overnight, maybe, and with many people chatting or with their own laptops. The labs have always served as a kind of study lounge after business hours, if only because they’re one of the few places on campus open and easily accessible to students. The new study lounge will allow people to have a quiet place away from their apartments and residence halls, or somewhere to work without having to drive home for commuters with projects or homework to finish up.
The school is finally giving all students a place to study full-time, even if there are no couches to accidentally fall asleep on. Hopefully, they’ll warn us more in advance next time, but the benefits outweigh the annoyance. A mixed blessing is, after all, still mostly a blessing.