Students complain about studying at home, but do not go to the University Library

Entrance UB City Centre, photo DUB

Could this problem be acknowledged?, asked master's student Daniil Scheifes in an e-mail to DUB last week. Daniil has been working on his master's thesis at the University Library City Centre since August, he always neatly books one of the 95 workstations that are available in corona time. But to his surprise, many other chairs remain empty. Students claim a place online, but don't show up, he was told.

"Downright rude behaviour", Daniil said. Surely the University Library should do something about that? But when he complained at the reception or student service his complaint was kindly received and nothing else seemed to happen.

No show
"The University Library does find the no show students a problem", replies spokesman of the University Library Arjan Grooters. It is not known how many of the students stay away without cancelling, but according to the spokesperson the library had already realised that something had to be done.

In a notice on social media last week, students were asked to withdraw their bookings if they decide not to come. Starting Monday, students will also receive this message if they wish to make a workplace booking. From that day on, bookings can no longer be made for a two weeks in advance, but only for one. "Moreover," says Grooters, "the booking will be cancelled if a student does not show up within 30 minutes of the start time.”

Daniil is satisfied. "I am pleased that the problem has been recognised. It is a bit late, but ok. Maybe students could get an email that their booking has expired because they did not show up. That could raise awareness even more.”

Rising irritation
The master's student says that his angry mail to DUB was also prompted by rising irritation about the cautious corona policy of the University as a whole. "Everyone seems terrified that there will soon be a source of infection that can be traced back to a room inside the University. This fear may even be justified in view of the hungry media, but now nothing is possible and nothing is allowed, because of ... corona. That is too easy. The University must also want to guarantee the quality of education and research. For my thesis, for example, at the moment I need my institute's fast computers, but that is not something that can be discussed.”

According to Daniil, the problems with the booking system of the University Library fed his annoyance. "You can already imagine in advance that students will be so careless with it, I think. Then it almost seems as if you yourself would rather they didn't come.”

Not fully booked
However, University Library spokesperson Grooters comes up with an observation that rejects that picture: the workstations in the University Libraries are not always fully booked. Students indicate in all studies that they find it difficult to study at home, but apparently they do not go to the library in large numbers. Especially at the Utrecht Science Park location, where only 191 study places are available in corona time, it is sometimes very quiet.

Grooters makes the comment that the usually busy examination period is still a while away. "But there have been evenings when the occupancy was under ten percent. We don't really know why."

Daniil can imagine that many students living in the city don't feel like studying in De Uithof. But he identifies another problem. According to him, students looking for a place via the booking system regularly receive the message on their screen that they are not available, while at upon further inspection it turns out that there are still empty spaces.

Arjan Grooters acknowledges that the booking system has shortcomings. "The system is intended for booking rooms and collaborative workplaces, but must now suddenly also be used for booking individual workplaces. We are looking into whether another system should be purchased for this, but that takes time. In the meantime, we are trying to make improvements where possible.”

According to Grooters, it is also unlikely that the remaining number of bookings for workstations can be attributed entirely to defects in the booking system. "Despite the poor user experience, many students manage to book a place. We see a lot of bookings, especially in the city centre, on weekdays during the day. But at other times, and certainly in the Utrecht Science Park, there is still space. Of course, we also prefer to see those spaces occupied.”