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Optimise the REx Layout According to Our Real Needs

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Dear Wolfson Research Exchange Team, We are a group of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers who use the Wolfson Research Exchange. We are now writing to express our unhappiness with the new layout of the Research Exchange, which was renovated in August 2013. The issues we would like to raise are as follows: 1. The layout of the Research Exchange was changed without consulting the views of the students who use the space. The librarians on duty in the Research Exchange have informed us that the change is meant to address students’ calls for more collaborative spaces. While we recognise that some students might have expressed such views individually, we feel that the library should have undertaken a formal and comprehensive survey of the needs of the majority of students who use the Research Exchange before changing the layout of the room. We feel that the change has been imposed on us arbitrarily. 2. In addition to the point above, we feel that our feedback on the new layout has not been taken seriously by the library. Several of us have written our comments on the Post-It notes the library has placed near the entrance for the express purpose of seeking our feedback. Until today, we have not received any recognition from the library that it is considering the feedback we have given. As a result, we feel that the library does not genuinely value our views. 3. We feel that the new layout encourages group work at the expense of individual work. The previous layout gave us more flexibility in choosing whether to do quiet work individually or to participate in collaborative work, or to do both at different times of the day. It therefore accommodated the different and varying demands of students, whereas the current layout compels students to sit in groups regardless of whether this would benefit their research or not.Moreover, there are other spaces on campus, such as the Postgraduate Hub, which already cater to students who want to do group work, whereas the old Research Exchange provided a unique environment that allowed for both group and individual work. 4. We feel that the renovation of the Research Exchange has led to a regrettable decrease in individual work areas for research students. The loss of such areas is especially felt by students whose departments are unable to provide them with their own offices. The Postgraduate Hub is mainly dedicated to groupwork, and its opening hours are relatively short. We also do not wish to compete with the undergraduate students for individual work areas in other parts of the library. 5. We are concerned that a decreased number of work spaces in the new Research Exchange will deprive many students of the opportunity to use its facilities. 6. We feel that the placement of computers in the new Research Exchange is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons: a) The computers are arranged in such a way that their screens face the centre of the room. The screens are now visible to anyone who happens to pass by, and this reduces the users’ privacy. b) Most of the desks that do not have computers on them are too far away from the power sockets. This makes it difficult for those of us who wish to use our laptops and other IT devices. Incidentally, this was also an unresolved issue in the previous arrangement of the Research Exchange. We suggest that the library might resolve this problem by providing more extension cables. c) There are four computer stations in the pantry area. We find that this makes it hard for us to use the pantry facilities without disturbing those who are using the computers. We also prefer the previous arrangement where we could have informal discussions with other students while having meals and snacks at the pantry area. The communal pantry area was ideal not only for collaborative research but also for building a sense of community and camaraderie amongst research students. d) Some of the computer screens face the windows directly, and the glare from the sunlight makes it difficult to see the screens. 7. We feel that the new system of locker allocation can be improved. The twelve-hour limit on usage is too short for us to store our belongings overnight, and this discourages us from using the lockers. We also feel that the distribution of the lockers with indefinite timers on a first-come, first-served basis is very unfair. This method of distribution effectively means that students are able to use the lockers for an indefinite period of time regardless of whether they are regular users of the Research Exchange, and regardless of whether they have departmental offices. We propose that students who do not have their own offices and who work in the Research Exchange regularly be given priority in applying for the use of the lockers with indefinite timers. 8. The administrator’s desk is currently placed in the centre of the Research Exchange and we feel that this arrangement is not ideal. We do enjoy talking to the Research Exchange staff but the sounds tend to emanate throughout the room and they distract not only those who are doing individual work, but also those who are engaged in research-related discussions. We much prefer the previous arrangement where the administrator’s desk was placed closer to the entrance. 9. Several of the regular users of the Research Exchange have stopped using the room because they are uncomfortable with the new layout. Instead of encouraging collaboration, the new layout is ironically breaking up the existing community in the Research Exchange. Following the issues we have raised here, we hope the Research Exchange Team will take note of our present concerns and take the necessary steps towards addressing them.

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