Despite high demand for Olin Library senior thesis carrels in past years, this fall marks a 60 percent drop in the number of students on the waiting list for a carrel. Those on the waiting list have the option of claiming space in the microforms center—a new room for thesis writers that has drawn mixed reactions from students.

The Olin Library staff is unsure as to what prompted the decrease in applicants. This year, 120 students applied, and 18 were placed on the waiting list, down from a 47-person waiting list last year and a 69-person waiting list in September 2006.

“We have no clue [why the numbers have dropped],” said Library Assistant Jesse Steele. “I’m very curious though.”

Each year, members of the senior class writing an honors thesis are eligible to apply for a select number of study carrels in the library. Through a lottery process, applicants are assigned to carrels by the end of September.

While this year’s addition of the microforms marks an improvement in study space availability for thesis writers, some carrel applicants are displeased with the space they’ve received, either in a carrel with multiple students or in the microforms center.

For some, the microforms are seen as a last resort. Dan Cerruti ’09, who is currently on the carrels waiting list, received one of 20 microform assignments.

“It’s communal space where you’re doing personal work,” he said. “The main issue is the privacy thing—you’re applying for an office to conduct your research. It would be nice to have a room with a key that would lock.”

Some students given a group carrel assignment are equally disappointed. Aneliya Valkova ’09, who was assigned to one of several group carrels, expressed her frustration with the situation.

“My reason for applying for a [single] carrel is because I really need my own space,” she said. “When I was given one with three people, that’s kind of like my house.”

Elana Baurer ’09 also received a group carrel assignment, but admitted that she was just happy not to have a microform assignment.

“I just really wanted to have a space where I could set up my books,” Baurer said. “I think it’s pretty silly that the school doesn’t guarantee carrels for everyone.”

Despite these sentiments, Steele said she has received fewer complaints regarding carrel assignments than in previous years.

“We’ve just had minimal grumblings here and there,” she said. “Not nearly as many complaints as we’ve had in the past.”

Certain students, however, have expressed their acceptance and even contentment regarding their group carrel assignments.

Rececca Malik ’09 was initially hesitant when she received a group carrel. After seeing and working in the carrel, however, she decided she had no qualms with her assignment.

“I actually kind of like it because it’s not as cramped,” she said. “I’m happy to have a carrel that locks where I can leave my stuff.”

Erik Underwood ’09, who was also assigned a group carrel, expressed satisfaction with his carrel placement.

“I’m overwhelmingly pleased,” he said. “It doesn’t feel as claustrophobic [as a single]; there’s even a huge chalkboard and more space for books.”

Regardless of student acceptance or displeasure, Administrative Assistant Ann Marino stated that there are no plans to install more carrels.

“Space and money are big issues,” she noted. “We’ve really done everything we can do.”

The library has also witnessed a decrease in students attending the senior writing workshops. Each fall Olin Library conducts a set of tours for seniors writing a thesis or essay, which focuses on library resources—such as inter-library loans—that could aid in the writing process.

Between 75 and 90 students generally attend one of the 12 tours offered. The 2007-2008 academic year saw a total attendance of 78 students. This September, however, Reference Librarian Kendall Hobbs noticed a considerable drop in attendees.

“This year was a little more than half [of what it usually is]—54,” he said. “We’re not sure if there are fewer people signing up for carrels or fewer people doing a thesis.”

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