Library’s super-secret study spaces declassified

August 17, 2022

Russell Guerrero - Strategic Communications Coordinator

The secret is out! The library at SAC has been transforming its physical space to add numerous self-contained study pods for students. The pods function as mini-workstations for students looking for a quiet place to study, take part in a Zoom class, conduct a job interview, or other activities that require a little privacy.

“We call them our super-secret study spaces because when we show them to students they say ‘Wow! We didn’t know about this!’” said Karen Briere, library supervisor.

SAC Study Pod.jpgSince February, the library has been installing the study pods on the third, and fourth floors of the Moody Learning Center. In addition, the Writing Center on the second floor of Moody also contains study pods as well as the SLAC lab on Moody’s seventh floor. Right now, the library has 39 study pods and plans to add a dozen more.

The study pods come in two sizes. The single pod looks like an oversized phone booth (for people who remember what phone booths look like). It contains a chair, a small desktop, and power outlets to hook up laptops and other devices.

The double pod size has a larger desktop and four chairs and, if needed, can accommodate up to four people to collaborate on a project.

Both types of pods have fans that can help cancel outside noise.

According to Lee LeBlanc, director of the SAC Library, the pandemic was the motivating factor for adding the study pods to the library. In February 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, the library was one of the first places to reopen because students were coming inside their doors needing somewhere to work.

The library wanted to find a way to add safe, social distancing areas for students to study and cut down on personal contact. During the library team’s research looking for a solution, LeBlanc came across articles on the future of work environments and that led him to the study pods.

Funding for the study pods came from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund from the Department of Education. The new grant was created as a response to academic needs related to the pandemic.

While other academic libraries have added study pods, none have done to  the scale SAC has undertaken. “It’s a way of updating our space and using it as a strategic asset,” LeBlanc said.

He added that the HEERF grant allowed the library to develop the new work  spaces in months instead of years. “SAC really did meet this immediate pandemic need while also being very future focused,” he said.

Because of the flexible installation possibilities for the  study pods, the library has been able to set up different floor plans for areas. Students will still have access to study rooms that can seat several people and contain white boards, with some including computers projectors. The different floors also have tables and open spaces where students can gather and collaborate.

Consequently, there will be several options for different studying styles. From an open space where students can talk to each other, to the double pods that add a little more privacy, to single pods that offer almost complete silence.

The study pods are open to all students and there is no need to reserve them. Students can also bring food and drink inside the library during marathon study sessions.

“It’s an exciting time for us. To be able to do something like this, to respond to the changing needs of our students,” LeBlanc said.