If you’ve been wanting to re-experience the feeling of studying in the campus library again, librarians Laura Rocco of Stan State and Zohra Saulat of Chico State are working to get you covered with their new virtual study sessions.
In order to combat the growing isolation, the two created temporary virtual learning environment where students can study together and get research assistance from librarians. These “Library Research Cafes” are Zoom events where students can join at their leisure to study peacefully, surrounded by their peers and professionals ready to assist.
The Library Research Cafes only ran for the month of October as a way to test the reception of the new program. The attempt to recreate a space that has been absent from the campus for the past months may return in the future based on the success of the October sessions and the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic.
The library is a great place to study because of the calm and quiet atmosphere; it encourages individual study while also providing tons of resources for you to look through. One element that is often forgotten about in the library study spaces, is the community. When you’re sitting at one of the library tables or in one of the chairs, you’re not entirely alone. You sit, surrounded by hundreds of peers who are also there for the same reason you are: to study and to get work done.
On the first event on October 4, what started off as uncomfortable soon became a relaxing experience. While the idea of being in a Zoom call studying with a batch of strangers made many people slightly nervous, it took only a few minutes of being online before all that worry melted away as calming Lofi beats played in the background.
These Research Cafes also gave students the opportunity to reach out to the hosts for assistance and go into one-on-one breakout rooms.
This comfortable, yet, communal aspect is exactly what the duo wanted to focus on. “Of course, we can’t recreate the in-person experience exactly,” says Rocco, “but if there was a way to recreate sort of a social study space where students could be working independently, but still have the company of each other and still have access to the help they need, then that was something we wanted to try.”
Rocco also wants these Research Cafes to be unique and different each new session. “Each week we’re going to feature a different music playlist, so we’re going to play music and have the Zoom screens open and we’ll check in occasionally and if anyone needs help."
To get his project rolling, Rocco reached out to Saulat. Together, they began the planning process to get these cafes online and ready for students. “(Laura) reached out to me and we discussed it further.” This is where they came up with the idea for a raffle which will happen each week for those who join the cafes, where one person has a chance of winning a gift card. This marked the main incentive to get those who would be more on edge about joining the cafes.
While many have had a range of experiences with online learning, it’s clear that university students are missing on the social aspect that many find so appealing about college.
Megan Colon (sophomore, Music) explains that on-campus group studying was something that she enjoyed when buildings on campus were still open. “I would go with my friends to the cafeteria [and] we would eat and then talk about our classes. We would even just meet in the lobby of the music building and just talk [and] ask questions about the homework.”
These common interactions are important to keep the students’ mindsets positive. Forming connections with your peers, and possibly even your professors, may raise morale and encourage the relationships that help students work. While there are still programs for connecting with others, like Discord and Zoom, which Colon lists as alternatives, she says neither completely make up for the hole left by these social interactions.
For those interested in the cafes and who were unable to experience one, be sure to check in on the University Events Calendar to know when and how they may return for the Spring 2021 semester.