Hidden Gems of the McGill Campus

14 Jan, 2012

Last semester, I decided I didn’t want to fight the crowds to get a seat to get some Hardcore StudyingTM done, and preferred to stay home with endless supplies of tea, an extra blanket wrapped around my shoulders, my Christmas tree and kittens. However, for those who have decided to brave the decidedly unseasonal rain and go study outside their house, here is a breakdown of some of the campus studying spots. Having lived in most of these libraries for the better part of last school year, I offer up my experience as advice  to consider for the years to come and hope I won’t get killed for revealing people’s secrets.

[media-credit name="Photo courtesy of Sarah Burke (Flickr)" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Schulich

While Schulich is one of my favourite libraries during the semester, I usually avoid it like the plague during finals because the atmosphere of sheer stress and tension is enough to make me start freaking out in sympathy – it’s a scary place. Furthermore, it’s often over-heated (the fourth and fifth floor, next to the computers, are especially notorious). However, if you’re looking for a slightly less crowded and adequate-noise-level place, try the eClassroom on the fourth floor. It has computers at each desk (don’t use up a desk there if you have your own computer or are just going to do hand-written stuff, that’s not nice) and the volume is usually just-whispers, so you can ask your neighbour a question, but don’t answer your phone unless it’s to murmur “Hi, let me go outside” and run out. It does, however, get chillier in this room, so bring a sweater.
Pros: You will be stressed into submission, so that you feel obliged to study. It also offers 24-hour access.
Cons:You will be stressed into submission, so that all you want is hugs and soothing noises. You also have to get there very early to get a spot.



[media-credit name="Fadi Tleel" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Islamic Studies Library
This place is beautiful, and super, super quiet. While usually quite empty compared to the other libraries, it fills up during exam periods. While you have to look for a spot or really hope that someone will leave as you arrive, there are quite a few nooks you can tuck yourself into if you just want to sit and do readings.

Pros: Beautiful wood paneling everywhere, most book titles are in languages you can’t read, so you won’t get distracted looking at them.
Cons:Small, study carrels fill up quickly. The stained glass windows can be very distracting because they’re quite pretty


[media-credit name="Fadi Tleel" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit] Birks Reading Room
Both beautiful and deathly quiet. You have to take your shoes off before coming in – bring clean socks if your feet are smelly – and water bottles have to be left on the floor next to your chair, but the room is so beautiful that it’s worth it. Don’t even dare raise your voice beyond the faintest whisper or the librarian will first glare at you and then come up to you and scold you loud enough for everyone to stare while you apologise, feeling thoroughly mortified and supremely guilty for profaning the silence.

Pros: Beautiful room, great stacks that you can sit in to do readings or quietly procrastinate on Facebook.

Cons: Only open 1000h-1800h, closed on weekends. Librarian is terrifying, though actually very sweet if you need advice.




[media-credit name="Photo courtesy of Scott Norsworthy (Flickr)" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit] Law Library
Lawyers are scary people. Don’t drop your pencil, or you might get walloped by someone’s massive Penal Code book. The library itself is lovely, but the stress levels also run very high. If you are spotted wasting valuable studying space while on Facebook, you will be glared at.

Pros: Lots of natural light, cool triangular windows, very neat architecture and nice big tables.

Cons: Scary people who might growl at you if you drop your pencil – an actual occurrence.









[media-credit name="Ed Yao" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Mclennan
I personally don’t like McLennan because I like having books somewhat nearby while in a library, and I think McLennan sucks the soul out of me. But it is huge (the library website boasts seating for over 2,000 people), and has lots of room, so you can probably find a spot in one of the many parking lots of study desks on the various floors. You might not be able to find your way back to your spot after a coffee run, but hey, it’s part of the adventure.

Pros: I’ll have to leave this to someone who actually likes the place – I guess it’s great that it has room for so many people? And it’s open 24 hours, which is welcoming too.
Cons:Soul-sucking, industrial study-space. Also, have you seen how ugly the building is? There are lots of nicer places.


[media-credit name="Fadi Tleel" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Blackader-Lauterman (3rd floor of Redpath)
Commonly referred to as “the Hipster library”, it does have the advantage of being a quiet place to study. However, the constant checking-out of people at the other tables gets distracting, at least for me. People jokingly say that you have to be wearing plaid, oversized glasses and carrying a Mason jar of coffee to be allowed in.
Pros: Good light, quiet place to study, more books than in other parts of the Redpath/McLennan complex.
Cons:Levels of hipsterdom are astounding, to the extent that it sometimes seems more like somewhere to be seen than somewhere to study.


[media-credit name="Fadi Tleel" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Cybertheque
Similar to McLennan, the Cybertheque is really, really soul-sucking, partially because most of the room is too far from the windows to notice the passage of time, so you begin to lose track of everything. A good place for all-nighters though, if you get there early enough to not be sitting on the floor all night; there’s something about the lighting that helps you not fall asleep quite as much, and the vending machines nearby will help keep you fuelled. LikeaLittle abounds on people’s computer screens, and it’s always fun to watch people’s heads shoot up when they think they might be the one mentioned in the most recent post.
Pros: Good for all-nighters, general atmosphere of stress makes you want to study. The café is open 24 hours during finals season.
Cons:Getting slightly smelly because people have been living there for a while in addition to the soul- and time-sucking.


[media-credit name="Photo courtesy of SSMU" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]SSMU

If you can resist the highly soporific effect of the couches in the SSMU lounge, they’re a good place to study. During the fall semester exam period, the lovely SSMU exec set up tables, chairs, lights and extension cords in the ballroom for the duration of finals – certainly a useful place to go when all else fails.
Pros: Tiki-Ming is nearby, as well as coffee from La Prep and smoothies from Liquid Nutrition to keep you fuelled.
Cons: Couches are the comfiest things ever and may make you fall asleep instantly. Also, an overdose of MSG is probably a terrible way to die.


[media-credit name="Fadi Tleel" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]Burnside
Soulless, but Science students get free printing and 24-hour access. The Geography library in Burnside is apparently lovely though, and you get a great view out the windows. Also, you get handy access to the Math Helpdesk (ironically located in Room 911).
Pros: Free printing! Helpful maths students to explain the wonders of life and numbers–related things to you!
Cons:No windows in the basement (which is one of the only places to study). Burnside is also just a terribly glum building overall.



[media-credit name="Photo courtesy of McGill University" align="alignright" width="300"][/media-credit]FDA labs

Only work there during the night if you’re an engineer, and the security guards actually do check. Don’t go there if you’re in Arts, especially at night – people will grumble at you, and they need the special software on the computers more than you do.
Pros: Lots of computers, fantastic rolling-chairs, big windows.
Cons:Lots of smart people to make you feel stupid. Stress and stupidity levels rise during finals.

There are lots of other little places on campus and all over Montreal – switch it up!

About the Author
Aliénor Lemieux-Cumberlege is a Bull & Bear guest writer who co-authors the WordPress blog The McGill Diaries. This article was previously posted on the blog and was submitted to The Bull & Bear.

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