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In Search of the Perfect Study Space

I am a somewhat finicky and fickle person. This also extends to study spaces. What works for me one day might be unbearably distracting the next, and what helps me focus on grading might not work when I’m trying to write my dissertation. As a result, I can often be seen migrating between different nooks and crannies around campus. Below are some of my regular spots, organized by task. Feel free to share your favorite spots in the comments!

Grading or Reading

The Law Library reading room is, admittedly, hit-and-miss. It’s sometimes packed and other times you might get your MCard swiped and ushered into the “gen pop” corner of the room because half of the space is reserved for Law students. Even so, the gorgeous surroundings and the truly monstrous Law textbooks people are diligently highlighting inspires a similar diligence in me. This is useful when I need to grade or read – tasks that don’t quite require deep, sustained thinking but do require patience and focus.

The ceiling of the Law Library.

Whenever I hit writer's block, I just gaze up for ethereal inspiration. Law Library.

Preparing Classes

The reading rooms in the Union have two major pros: they’re relatively quiet, and they are close to various sources of caffeine. I prefer the smaller room, where the grand piano introduces an element of suspense as you will sometimes hear professional-grade Chopin, other times an enthusiastic but grating Chopsticks. Mostly, though, silence prevails with the gentle to-and-fro of students outside. The room also has comfortable couches, sometimes taken up by napping students or faculty members. (It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference.) The room feels like a very nice personal study, which is perfect for laying out all my teaching materials and crafting that perfect PowerPoint with Antiquity-themed puppies.

Data Entry

As all of us, I sometimes need to do things that are important but kind of mindless. With tasks like data entry, low-grade noise helps me focus and makes me feel less like I’m dying of boredom. Hatcher’s reading room works in a pinch (a bit too noisy, and bit too crowded), but a café really hits the spot. If you want to venture away from the usual canon of Espresso Royale and Sweetwaters, Crazy Wisdom on Main is a delight. If I’m working with spatial data or need two screens, the Clark Library inside the Hatcher provides the computers, software, and a soothing background hum.

Finishing a Project

The Reading Room in the Rackham Building is where I hunker down when serious things need to get done and I don’t particularly want to do them. The room is usually pretty empty and so quiet that if you breathe too loudly you’ll get glares. This is the one room where I have never checked Facebook because even the thought of tainting the room with such lowly past-times seems shameful. The décor and the atmosphere are lofty, just like that grant application you’re writing. The chairs, however, are ridiculously comfortable, so you can choose between a desk whose hardwood expanse will make you feel like a Serious Scholar, and plopping down into one of the comfy chairs, propping your feet up and reading some Foucault.