CU-Boulder’s study sanctuaries: Finding the best place to hit the books

At 2 a.m. on the morning of University of Colorado senior Lindsey Bailey’s finance exam, all she could think about was the screeching of metal music and electric guitars.

Bailey was trying desperately to focus on studying, but she said the noise from the early morning guitar practice of her neighbor made it impossible.

Most CU students can relate to Bailey’s situation, and some aren’t even able to study in their own houses or dorm rooms effectively thanks to noisy roommates. So what’s the solution?

Some say that the best study environments are those that are quiet and isolated with the fewest distractions. In fact, the University of Texas Learning Center recommends that to learn effectively, students must be able to train themselves to study away from others and in silence.

On the other hand, working in groups can be beneficial for learning inside and outside the classroom.

Jennifer Knight, a biology professor who has been a part of CU’s Learning Assistant Program since 2004, said that students differ in the way that they take in information.

“Every student learns differently, and some ways may not be as useful as others,” Knight said. “What I try to do is create a classroom with a little bit of everything” no matter what learning style a person may have.

Knight encourages students to study together because they can learn a tremendous amount from each other. Fortunately for students at CU, there are different learning environments for every type of student.

The fairly centrally located Norlin Library has many helpful resources. With more than a few librarians on duty, writing centers, reserve desks and numerous Mac and PC computers, it seems like the ideal place to get some work done.

Senior Terry Watkins has been using Norlin as a study sanctuary since he was a freshman.

“I choose to go to the library mainly to get out of my house,” Watkins said. “Being right by the TV and stereo, I can’t get anything done. So when I go to the library I need to be very secluded in order to avoid those distractions and get my work done.”

However, those who have ever stepped foot in Norlin during midterms week or even finals week quickly realize that quiet study spots are suddenly at a minimum. That’s one reason studying at Norlin is not a top choice for Bailey.

“Sometimes I don’t like going to Norlin because you have to walk around for 20 minutes trying to find somewhere to sit and then once you find a place, you are surrounded by people that are there for social hour only,” she said. “It is really frustrating.”

Other libraries

Still, CU is a large campus with many other libraries that students may not even know about.

The Jerry Crail Johnson Earth Sciences and Map Library on the first floor in the Benson Earth Sciences building is not as spacious as Norlin, but it has two floors dedicated to study spaces and a few computers available for research. The best part about this library is that it is open to every major with no restrictions.

Another quiet study option is the William A. Wise Law Library on the second floor of the Wolf Law building. It’s on the outer edges of campus, and it’s extremely spacious and almost never full. One hitch is that use of the law library is restricted to law students during law school exams, which typically coincide with the university’s finals week. Aside from that, this library is a good option for year-round studying as it is usually open for longer hours than other libraries on campus.

Another alternative to Norlin is the William M. White Business Library located in the Koelbel building. The business library has its own coffee shop and study rooms where students can reserve a block of time in a private room to work on group projects or just study in peace. The best news is that anyone with a valid CU student identification card can reserve a study room.

Kendall Wilson, a senior operations and information management major, said the business library is the best place for her to get any work done.

“My classes are all in the B-school, so when I go there to study there are always people from my classes studying, too,” she said. “It makes things easier if I need to ask them questions. This place is great because if you’re not in the B-school, you probably wouldn’t think to come use it. It’s an awesome ‘secret.’ ”

Off campus

For those who prefer a completely different atmosphere to study in, coffee shops around and off campus are another option.

Folsom Street Coffee, Starbucks, Einstein Brothers and the Brewing Market all offer free parking and Wi-Fi Internet, which make it easy to surf the Web and do research for homework. There’s also Buchanan’s on the Hill, which also offers Wi-Fi, but doesn’t have its own parking area.

“I like coffee shops because I can talk if I need to but still have a quite place to study because most of the other people hanging around in there are getting work done, too,” Bailey said. “My favorite to study at is Folsom Street Coffee.”

Even the noise of the hustle and bustle of everyday life at the typical coffee shop is serene compared her neighbor’s guitar, she said, and “if it gets too loud I just put my headphones in.”

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