Popularity of UM Libraries on the rise

By Ashley A. Williams

Popularity of UM Libraries on the rise

By Ashley A. Williams
Over the past several years, more and more students are using UM Libraries as a study place, a meeting place, and more.

Comfortable clothing. Check. Headphones. Check. Protein bar. Check.

That’s part of a checklist used by many students before heading out to spend hours at a place that provides motivation and a quiet camaraderie. The place? University of Miami Libraries

Since 2015, UM Libraries has seen a 12 percent increase in student visitation. Kelly Miller, the associate dean of learning and research services, believes the increase is due to a number of factors. 

“Increased use of libraries means something really positive is happening at the University as whole,” said Miller. “It means that students are engaged in their studies and that they want to spend time in the libraries either alone or together.” 

Just as with a gym, the library is often a place students go to feel inspired by others around them. 

“They want to be studying alone but in a community,” she said. “Because it’s encouraging and it helps you to remember why you are here. It’s like inspiration.” 

Amir Davoodi, a junior majoring in public health, said, “I go to the library because the atmosphere is one where everyone is studying so I feel like that socially reinforces my study habits. Also the vibe itself. It’s filled with books, and the sounds of the printers, and stuff that’s like directly focused for studying. That’s why I come here.”

Inside Richter Library on the Coral Gables campus, there is more than just books. Over the years, the library has added more and more types of technology to keep up with the times. And, contrary to popular belief, not everything can be found easily on the Internet. 

For instance, library staff in the first floor Creative Studio provides expert support and consultation in the use of digital audio, video, and graphic design technology, as well as web development and image creation techniques. The library offers opportunities to experiment with equipment, like 3D printers, that students may otherwise never get to use. 

Jacob Dwyer, a senior majoring in finance, has been using the library as his main place to study since he was a freshman. 

“I guess it’s kind of customary at this point because I’ve been doing it for so long,” he said. “It’s easier here than anywhere else on campus to find a lot of space to collaborate with others as well. They have computers, printers, and all the resources you would need in one spot.” 

The library isn’t quiet anymore. Well, at least on the first floor of Richter it isn’t. Each floor is uniquely organized to fit the diverse needs of students. The first floor is oriented for collaborative studies and is the best place to work in groups or by yourself if you chose. 

Through focus groups and partnerships with student government, Miller and her team have worked to design a learning environment conducive to keep students engaged and motivated in a variety of environments. The food and drink policy is more flexible, vending machines are now accessible on the first floor, and better lighting is on the way. 

“We have a window replacement project that’s going to take place next summer where we will install hurricane-proof glass to replace the shutters on the first floor, said Miller. “It’s going to be more light and more access to nature.” 

The second floor is where you can hear a pin drop. There you can find people working more independently. According to Miller’s observations, she believes this is where students come to rigorously study, as opposed to just hanging out. 

“I have big gaps between my classes – like five hours – so I stay here when I have a lot of homework,” said Zhe Zhang, a fifth year senior majoring in environmental engineering. “I will go to the second to study because I want some place quiet. But, if I want to discuss with others, I will come to the first floor.” 

Another thing Miller knows is that students love power. Electrical outlets have been doubled to respond to the needs of students charging laptops and smartphones. 

“I’m taking classes that require me to use Excel a lot,” said Dwyer. “So, I’ll use my laptop and the desktop computer at the same time so that’s another big reason why I come here. Another big plus is that I can eat here.” 

And just as books are loaned, the library now offers go-pro cameras, video cameras, chargers, and more for loan. With these new technologies and offerings, libraries are evolving into a rich place to connect, collaborate, investigate, inquire, and learn. 

“We are opening possibilities for the way students do their work, the way they learn and what types of jobs they may have in the future,” Miller said.