Keeping study rooms and reading rooms closed could create problems for out-of-home offices in a city where there are often no public spaces to study, but many universities in Italy and abroad have made opposite choices.
A few more days and in Catania the university will finally be able to reopen. The classrooms will reopen, both laboratories and face-to-face internships will resume. Even written exams, if Sicily falls into the yellow zone, will take place in the premises of the University. All open, therefore, or almost. Despite the resumption of teaching activities, in fact, study rooms and reading rooms will still remain closed, as has happened since the beginning of the pandemic with few solutions of discontinuity.
The closure of the study rooms is a problem that recurs cyclically when it comes to the resumption of academic life, and not because students are so fond of the taste of coffee in the machine. With the lessons in the presence, even if at 50%, the question of attendance in the classroom also for commuters and off-site, who have the right as much as colleagues with a rented house or resident in Catania to be able to attend classes without being relegated to the DaD. A right, however, which is hindered when there are no places where you can study after class, or when you have to wait even hours before the connecting train or the next bus passes to go home.
Another problem arises for undergraduates and doctoral students. The closing of libraries, open only for book lending and return services, made it difficult search for bibliographic material, fundamental for research activity, holding back the academic career of students just when the goal seemed closer. Of course, in addition to online resources, there are libraries open in the area, but the current difficulties of this period are accompanied by a lack of knowledge of the services offered.
Libraries in Sicily, prof. Inserra: “They are not used by the youngest”
Study rooms in Catania: the situation
The university study rooms in Catania have been closed for months now. An attempt to open was made in early October, with the initiative of some departments. TO Economy and Business, for example, the study rooms were open upon reservation, active for three days and valid for the week following that of the seat reservation. The experiment lasted a few weeks, until Sicily was also overwhelmed by the second wave.
Some study rooms managed by third parties are also closed, such as the StUdenz in the port area, while there are no updates from the Jesuit study room to the Parish of the Crucifix of Miracles. They have recently reopened, after closing all January, the study rooms managed by ERSU Catania, such as those of the Cittadella or the Centro residence (in the latter case, however, the reopening is linked to the university students present in the student residence). In the classrooms managed by the regional institution for the right to education, there is no booking system, but the mask is mandatory during the duration of the stay and only one person per table can sit.
However, it seems difficult, with few open study rooms and 50% resumption of lessons, that it is possible to guarantee the service without risking crowds. To solve the problem, it is enough to adopt a solution widely tested both in Italy and in the rest of Europe in Catania.
Open study rooms and app bookings: the model to reopen
There seat reservation in the study room via app it is not new, but it has an essential advantage. It allows, in fact, to maintain the traceability of attendance in the classroom, so as to favor the activities of contact tracing in case it is necessary.
In many European countries, study rooms and libraries have been open for months, but even in Italy cities and universities have begun to equip themselves. In Rimini the library study rooms will soon reopen, which can be accessed by booking online or by phone. TO Bariinstead, it has been active since February 1st SalaUNIBA app, to reserve a place for reading rooms and specialist consultation rooms.
This is the situation a Paris, told by Agatino, Catania but in France for his doctorate: the capacity is reduced to 50% and the places are spaced, it is not possible to work in a group. Each student is assigned a number as soon as they arrive and the place assigned must be kept. “There are strict rules but it works – explains –. Personally, you work well and you can continue to do research, which is difficult in Italy ”.
Similar situation also to Brussels. “On my campus there are two libraries and a non-silent study room – he says Fabiana, student at ULB –, so those who need to do online group work can go there. Then there are the quiet spaces, made available when libraries get too full, which is not happening at the moment. There is an app to book, but you have to reserve the place for a certain number of hours in order to control who enters and who leaves“.
Similar examples show how countries and regions with health situations comparable to that of Sicily have moved in time to allow their students to continue living in universities. Even in Catania, as we mentioned before, the method was tested for a short time and could be re-proposed in a widespread and effective way. At the moment, with the exam session still in progress and the lessons that will resume at mid-level only in March, the reopening of the study rooms is perhaps not yet an urgency. However, it will be important to be ready and not close the doors to students when they ask, after months, to be able to study at their university.