This story was updated Aug. 17 at 3:51 p.m.
Walking across main campus, students will notice a change in scenery — Carrier Library is under construction.
Carrier Library has been a popular study spot since its opening in 1939, with space to house hundreds of studying students every day. Now that Carrier is projected to undergo construction until 2026, students will have to study in alternative spaces.
Along with popular existing study spaces such as Rose Library, the Student Success Center (SSC) and The Union, JMU Libraries is working to “identify, enhance, and promote” them, as well as new spots.
Director of Library Communications & Outreach Kristen Shuyler said via email that JMU Libraries is “enhancing” these previous study spaces with furniture from Carrier Library, along with creating brand new study spaces on campus.
Warren 502 — which was formerly a restaurant across from The Union Ballroom — and JMU Libraries Express in K-lot are the newest study spaces on campus. Warren 502 has 78 seats and Libraries Express about 20. Additionally, 44 seats were added in the Festival Conference and Student Center, and 48 more seats are now in The Union.
To supplement seating in common spaces, some classrooms will be transformed into study rooms. JMU has added more functional study furniture to them, including tables, chairs, soft seating and study carrels, Shuyler said.
Carrier Library had approximately 600 seats in use during “peak weekday times,” which were Monday through Thursday in the afternoon, according to data provided by Shuyler. Hot times also included late Sunday afternoons, which saw 360 seats used on average.
To help students locate and track new and old study spaces on campus, JMU Libraries created a map that will be updated regularly. The map, which showcases 23 available studying buildings, will help students find a space to meet their needs based on where their classes are, Shuyler said.
Alternatively, student affairs created a website that lists study options on campus with detailed descriptions of the spaces in The Union, SSC and on East Campus. JMU Libraries also ranked their top places to study in the libraries on campus.
“We care about students finding great places to do their solo studying or group work,” Shuyler said in an email. “We in the Libraries hope to continue our involvement in these cross-campus study space efforts.”
Even with new study spaces being added and highlighted across campus, students have expressed concern about Carrier being unavailable for the next three years, as well as their concern for study-space availability.
“I think it will ultimately be a cool, new library,” sophomore Reagan Vale said. “But I am sad that I will never get to see it or utilize it.”
Vale, who often frequented Carrier Library throughout her freshman year, foresees its absence causing problems on campus, especially when final exam weeks arrive at the end of the fall and spring semesters.
“Carrier housed so many students during finals week … They are going to have to go somewhere,” Vale said. “I think SSC and The Union will be overcrowded.”
Senior Sophia Libonate called Carrier an “integral” part of her sophomore and junior years on campus, as COVID-19 limited her freshman year. She particularly loved running into everyone she knew at Carrier, as well as “the stacks,” desks on the top floor of Carrier where she said she would lock in and “force” herself to study.
“It didn’t matter that most of my classes were on East Campus,” Libonate said. “I had my group project meetings, and routinely morning Starbucks [at Carrier].”
Shuyler said she doesn’t want students to be wary of Carrier Library’s absence but instead be excited and hopeful. The new Carrier will feature a 24/7 study space, a student kitchenette, universal restrooms on every floor and two new entrances that Shuyler says will be more accessible and feel more welcoming.
Shuyler said she wants to remind students that, even though it will be closed, Carrier’s services will continue. Students can still request and pick up books, ask questions, browse collections and much more throughout the renovation period.
Vale predicts she will use the study spaces in Hartman and Showker halls — the buildings that hold many College of Business classes near Newman Lake — as well as the airport lounge in the Union. Libonate said she plans to study in Rose Library if the space allows it.
“I really am glad to see this school grow and make improvements for its students,” Libonate said. “It’s become a bittersweet subject to think about.”