Different people study differently. Personally, I do my best thinking when I’m in a lecture for another class.
This is a proposal for slightly distracted study. The Topical Table speaks to you at a volume which is only intelligible to those sitting at the table. It has no interface. It is not your personal speaker or your headphones — you choose by being there or not.
The Topical Tables can bring students together around a common interest. Librarians choose what sounds to play – it could be archived audio of a lecture, a favorite NPR podcast… anything they find interesting and want to share.
Asides from the slightly distracted study, the tables have other useful features. I observed that people in reading rooms with long tables will most often tend to sit at far corners from each other, not wanting to encroach upon what they feel to be someone else’s space. By placing a hole down the center of the tabletop, it becomes more like one long counter and decreases the perception of encroachment while also organizing laptop power cords. The beveled ends also assist in making a more communal table.
Study, study, study, study. We’ve all got different ways of studying.
Different people study differently. Also, different areas of study inspire different modes of study. Personally, I do my best thinking when I’m in a lecture for another class. (Something I’m doing right now, in fact.)
So why go to a library when you are free to study anywhere? In short, because the library is a socially agreed upon place of study and it allows you to be in the company of others while still studying with little danger of serious interruption. This is unlike a cafe, for instance, where you might run into friends who are not bound by the implicit agreement to leave you to your studies. Also… we like libraries.
Let’s make the space of the library support many study behaviors.
This is a proposal for slightly distracted study. The lecture table speaks to you at a volume which is only intelligible to those sitting at the table. It has no interface. It is not your personal speaker or your headphones — you choose by being there or not. A room of slight distraction is created by a cluster of these tables each speaking quietly on a different subject.
One of the great things about the library system as it exists at Harvard right now is the variety of places it creates. There are places where you can work with a group of people, there are places with food available, there are some great window seats, there are desks, there are obscure libraries with few people… you get the point. One of the best things can be roaming around a library and discovering the perfect study niche you didn’t know existed (Lamont Library Poetry Room, smelled like chamomile tea the day I went in).
I have found, however, that I focus best with a certain level of distraction. By ignoring something else (I’ve found a lecture works best), it causes me to actively direct my attention to the task at hand. But this is not true for everyone, some people need complete isolation, some need to talk out loud with others, some need company but no interaction. There are a whole range of study behaviors and a library system which best serves the intention of studying is one which provides for variety.
Do you think it would be worthwhile to catalog study behaviors? Or should we just make a profusion of offbeat spaces and see what balance works best?
One of the things I’ve noticed in the libraries are how many people choose to wear headphones while there. This is interesting because the library is a quiet environment, supposedly ideal for studying, but these people are choosing to replace it with their own sound environment.
It makes me think that perhaps the library represents a quantity of STUDY and although that STUDY is conducive to studious activity, it proves to be too much all at once. Visitors choose to tone back the feeling of STUDY by modifying one of its elements, the soundscape, while still retaining the visual and social cues of the library.
When we displace the STUDY sound, where does it go? Is this quantity of STUDY something we can package and take elsewhere, creating newly studious environments?
Do we want to create newly studious environments when already people choose to work at home, in coffee shops, outdoors, etc. or is the goal to draw them together as much as possible?