Fondren library renovation sends students searching for alternative study spots

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Coffee shops and cafes throughout the Dallas area are buzzing with college students, but it’s not their signature scones or espressos that have them fighting for tables and coming back for more. It’s the study space.

On any given day of the week, Southern Methodist University students crowd the tables of BuzzBrews Kitchen, Union Coffee House, Sip Stir Café, Mudsmith and Starbucks, seeking spots to crack open their books while the university library is under construction.

“Studying off campus makes me feel less stressed,” said senior psychology major Victoria Edwards, who likes to study at the Starbucks in Highland Park Village.

SMU’s most popular library on campus, Fondren, is undergoing renovations that will affect every floor. Work won’t be completed until the summer of 2016, making for inconvenient and interrupted studying this school year.

With midterms in full swing, students say they have begun feeling the pressure to find alternative study spots to avoid Fondren’s increased noise levels and reduced operating hours.

Due to safety installations in the form of sprinkler systems, every floor of the library will be closed at some point. Despite this, Fondren librarians are working to counter any disruptions caused by the renovation.

“Every day we know what the noise level is going to be and how impacted students’ studying will be,” said Elizabeth Killingsworth, director of Fondren Library. “I’m currently trying to negotiate 24-hour study hours at Hughes-Trigg for fall and spring finals.”

Fondren now closes at 1 a.m., as opposed to its former 24-hour operating schedule. This schedule makes finding somewhere to study throughout the night a challenge. To solve this problem, librarians are offering their assistance.

“We’ve come up with a short list,” said UX Librarian Hollie Gardner.

Topping that list is BuzzBrew Kitchen, a diner-like eatery off the Expressway open 24-hours. Although the restaurant appears small and table space may be limited, its five locations and all-night operating hours make it a suitable alternative for students cramming for midterms.

BuzzBrews’ seemingly endless 24-hour menu is sure to provide students with the “brain food” necessary to keep their exhausted minds awake and running.

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BuzzBrews Photo credit: Blake Wetzel

Also included on the list of suggested study spots is Café Brazil and the University of Texas Library, as these locations are open 24-hours per day.

Fondren’s renovation also has students worried about the availability of study rooms.

“Science second floor and the mezzanine are still open for study rooms, for now,” said Killingsworth.

Planning ahead for when this changes later this semester, SMU students have begun searching for alternative study rooms off campus.

“Union has individual rooms with white boards that are useful for group studying,” said senior engineering management major Max Agadoni.

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Union Photo credit: Blake Wetzel
Union Coffee House is a large space complete with an outdoor patio, group study rooms on reserve, and lounges conducive to long and tiring study days.

Rooms can be reserved on Union’s website at a rental rate of $15 per hour, while large conference room reservations start at $250.

Union employee Michael Baughman believes students like studying at the coffee shop because of its great environment and the supportive community of like-minded people. These factors inspire students to get their work done.

“Apart from the mornings, there’s rarely a time we are open without some SMU students there,” said Baughman.

For engineering management major Amy Golem, having the space to spread out her work when studying for engineering and math is her primary concern.

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Sip Stir Photo credit: Blake Wetzel
“Sip Stir has a really good studying vibe,” said Golem. “It has study tables, it’s really young and always full of students.”

Located in Uptown, this coffee shop is especially convenient for students who live off campus in the surrounding Uptown area who prefer staying closer to home rather than journeying to SMU’s campus.

Golem isn’t biased towards Sip Stir, though. She also enjoys frequenting Mudsmith. Filled with hip, young professionals, this coffee house is almost too cool for school.

The dimly lit interior is complete with large wooden tables, deep leather couches and walls decorated with deer heads. This cozy atmosphere makes students feel as if they are in the study room of an actual home.

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Mudsmith Photo credit: Blake Wetzel
SMU students aren’t strictly partial to one-of-a-kind coffee shops either. With so many Starbucks locations surrounding campus, the famous coffee chain has become just as known for its work-related atmosphere.

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Highland Park Village Starbucks Photo credit: Blake Wetzel
Edwards, the psychology major who studies at the Starbucks in Highland Park Village, enjoys its convenience when the library or sorority house proves too noisy.

“It’s quiet enough to get my work done, but I can also people watch,” said Edwards.

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