Facilities Learning Student-made

The BIG issue: Main Library or Ali G? My thoughts after three years here!

It’s nearly that time of the year when students spend a long number of hours studying in their dorms or the library for their final year exams. During exam season, the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons and the Main Library are the two hotspots preferred by most of the students due to the facilities they offer including comfortable study spaces, access to Wi-Fi, convenient location, safety, cafes, vending machines etc. The University of Manchester offers loads of support to help students perform better in their examinations and one of them includes increasing the number of study spaces in these two buildings.

The two locations have several features in common but differ in a few aspects which I, Harveen Kaur, a final-year Biotechnology student, am going to share!

The University of Manchester Library is one of the UK’s best-resourced library with more than 4 million printed books and manuscripts, over 29,000 unique electronic journals and 414,000 electronic books, as well as several hundred databases. The traditional library has two categories of study spaces: individual study zone and the Group Study zone. These are silent study zones except for the group study rooms on the 2nd-floor Green zone. Alongside traditional library services, it offers self-service facilities such as vending machines, printing, and Wi-Fi access throughout. The building is open from 8am-12am during term time and 8am-2am during the exam season.

In my first-year, all these facilities drew my attention, and I would spend most of my time during the exam season in the main library. I would always try to get my hands on one of the individual study spaces on the round table in the Blue zone as it provided me the personal space I needed. The timings also suited me as I would make sure I finished my work just on time for when the library closed. Since the Library is a quiet zone area, my friend and I would take short breaks to chill in the lounge on the ground floor, grab a coffee, or step outside to walk and sit on the grass for some fresh air.

Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, on the other hand, is a much more recent development, and offers great facilities including 400 fixed workstations with live update availability information so you don’t have to wait, charging stations to charge laptops, tablets and smartphones, flexible break out and workspaces with multimedia facilities etc. Additionally, the Learning Commons hosts a series of training sessions and workshops. It is the UK’s first digital library which is open 24/7 during term time. The modern architecture and its most up to date facilities accommodate more than 1000 students. That said, perhaps because of its facilities, sometimes it can even be hard to find the most convenient spot during peak times for yourself.

In my second year, I started studying in the Learning Commons because I needed a change from the quiet zone in the Library. In between lectures, I spent most of my time in the Learning Commons finishing my coursework. Eventually, workload increased, and I became a night owl, and so the Learning Commons became my go-to place for studying. Depending on the concentration level my assignments required, I preferred either the individual study spaces with a computer on the first floor or one of those comfortable sofa chairs. Also, handy to know is that the University offers laptop loans to students, which has been very helpful and time-saving when I couldn’t bring my lap top in to Uni for some reason. .

It’s funny how we get used to studying in one place, but I’d definitely say don’t stay stuck to either. You might have a favourite, but it’s always good to try a change of scenery, and both have great spaces (as well as pros and cons depending on what you want to get done!)

I have made so many memories in both these places that I will cherish for life (despite the hours of studying involved) and I’m pretty sure many final-year students can relate 😊