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Monday, April 15, 2024

Books, naps and games: UF libraries are for more than just studying

UF has seven libraries on its main campus

The start of every semester brings about a new wave of academic goals and resolutions, with students scrambling to find the best tips and tricks for productivity. While there’s no doubt that building healthy study habits is important, finding the perfect space to implement those habits is just as important. 

There are seven libraries on UF’s main campus: Marston Science Library, Library West, Smathers Library, the College of Law’s Legal Information Center, the Health Science Center Library, the Architecture and Fine Arts Library and the Education Library.

From Dungeons & Dragons to massage chairs, each library has its specialties to offer. 

Marston Science Library

The most popular library on campus is Marston Science Library, with more than 2.1 million visitors per year. Located at 444 Newell Drive, the library has a large variety of STEM collections, which includes agriculture, life sciences, engineering, physical sciences, mathematics and environmental sciences.

On March 23, 2023, Marston announced that it would be open 24/7, a change that many students support and are in favor of.

“I like that [Marston] is 24/7, and that it’s open most of the time,” UF computer science junior Bradley Dantas said. “And it has quite a lot of space.”

While the study rooms and technology offered at Marston are widely known, the wellness resources often fly under students’ radars.

Among the lesser known features at Marston, the library offers crochet study buddies, and Dungeons & Dragons workshops, said Robin Fowler, the Marston Public Services Coordinator. Dungeons & Dragons Adventurer Kits are also available for check-out.

“We want the libraries to be a place that students want to be,” Fowler said. “UF is a huge university, and if you come in as a freshman, you might not have a place yet … so a mission of ours is to make Marston a second campus home for students.”

Library West

Library West, the largest library on campus, is located at 1545 W University Ave. and houses collections focused on the humanities and social sciences.

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UF aerospace engineering freshman Marina Jenkins enjoys studying at Library West, as she finds that the environment is effective in boosting her productivity.

“I like that there’s a Starbucks really close, and there’s a lot of quiet floors for you to study and focus,” UF aerospace engineering freshman Marina Jenkins said.

There are a great number of resources available at Library West, including one-on-one appointments with librarians, a research assistance desk and subject/area specialists.

Library West Chair Stacey Ewing said librarians are more than willing to help students, whether it’s with conducting research, formatting a citation or just finding a book.

“We just want someone to ask,” she said. “I think people may be nervous, but all you have to do is email one of us. And if we don’t know the answer, we know all the other subject specialists throughout all the other branches, so we can help you narrow down and get assistance.”

Library West also hosts the  Wellness @ West program, which includes resources geared toward ensuring students’ mental and physical well-being. Some of these resources are the Mindfulness Studio, FitDesk bikes and, similarly to Marston, study buddies students can check out.

Smathers Library

To the east of Library West is Smathers Library, renamed from Library East in 1987. The library is separated into three floors, with each floor holding a unique library or collection.

On the first floor is the Map & Imagery Library, which contains a vast collection of maps, aerial photographs, satellite images, atlases and reference books. 

Next to that library is a row of booths that many students use as a study space. One such student is UF graphic design sophomore Rachel Frenchman.

“I like the side part of Smathers a lot because I’m an art student, so I don’t really need it to be dead silent,” Frenchman said. “I like having a little bit of noise because I’m not doing anything that needs a lot of concentration. I like tiny, little secluded areas more than dead silent libraries.”

The second is home to the Grand Reading Room, which is lined with large arched windows and rare chess sets. It holds the Special & Areas Studies Collections and the Judaica Suite, which aid students in region and Jewish studies respectively. 

And finally, on the third floor, there is the Latin American & Caribbean Special Collections.

UF holds one of three libraries in the United States that have a separate space for a Latin American collection, said Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, a librarian of the Latin American & Caribbean Special Collections. The collection is mainly focused on the Caribbean, but it’s beginning to cover Mexico as well.

Vargas-Betancourt said the library has been striving to incorporate the voices of indigenous people, migrant groups and local communities too, as the goal is to create a representative environment that highlights the contributions of every group.

“I would really like to think that this library is like a safe space,” Vargas-Betancourt said. “It’s a place that students can feel at home, and where everybody can celebrate who they are and their heritage.”

College of Law’s Legal Information Center

Located at 450 Village Drive, the College of Law’s Legal Information Center has shelves of books, articles, research and journals for students in all fields of law. Law students also have access to study aids such as hornbooks, subject summaries, subject outlines, case briefs, exam reviews, flashcards and auditory supplements.

Undergraduates and students in other disciplines may study at the library as well, but their hours are restricted to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The library is also closed to the general public during reading periods and finals. Law students have access to the library 24/7.

Health Science Center Library

The Health Science Center Library primarily assists students in the health science field, providing them resources like study rooms and medical equipment. It’s located at the Communicore Building on SW Archer Road.

“I like the fact that there’s three different floors,” UF pharmacy graduate student Kaitlyn Sassaman said. “So if I’m ever in the mood to study by myself, I just go to the third floor. If I need to talk with others or study in a less quiet environment, I go on the second floor.”

Despite its name, the library has a lot to offer to students who aren’t studying the health sciences. It focuses on wellness, with its most popular feature being the nap pods on the second floor. Students can use these pods to take scheduled naps between study sessions, which can help replenish some energy.

The library also has a puzzle table, coloring pages, desk exercisers and a massage chair that all students are free to use, said Hannah Norton, chair of the Health Science Center Library.

“We try to have wellness as a main focus of our library,” Norton said. “And we’re open to all!”

Architecture and Fine Arts Library

For students looking for peace and quiet, the Architecture and Fine Arts Library hosts collections focused on various aspects of design and the arts.

“It’s quieter and smaller with not as many people,” said UF art history junior Jackson Asbell. “And I think the building’s pretty, so I feel good when I’m working there.”

Students treat the library like a large study space, and it’s used more for independent study than for group projects and discussions.

There is, similarly to many of the other libraries on campus, also a wellness aspect to the Architecture and Fine Arts Library. Students can check out sensory tools to improve the study experience, such as weighted lap blankets, fidget toy kits and noise-canceling headphones.

Education Library

The Education Library at Norman Hall provides academic support to students who are interested in pursuing a profession in teaching.

There are plenty of resources available to students in the College of Education, including an education-related Makerspace. Die cuts, zSpace laptops and lamination can all be found in the Makerspace, and can be used without an attached cost.

The Education Library plays host to the only children’s collection at the university and includes everything from board books to young adult novels.

While the Education Library is on the smaller side, it has its own atmosphere that differentiates itself from the other libraries on campus. 

Director of the Education Library Rachael Elrod said students treat it like a traditional library and are very conscious of maintaining a quiet environment. 

“It’s kind of a hidden gem in that way,” Elrod said. “I think a lot of students still kind of crave that quiet space, and this is the place they can get that.”

Contact Annie Wang at Follow her on X @wynwg.

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Annie Wang

Annie Wang is a first-year journalism major and a University General Assignment writer for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing reviews on Goodreads.

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