As many students know, there are numerous places on campus to get homework done. Some of them work better as a spot to catch up with friends, while others are reserved for the focused students trying to finish their assignments or study for exams. Willamette University is no exception. It has many major-specific buildings with individual hearths for studying, such as Olin Science Center, which is home to chemistry and biology, or Eaton Hall, where English and history majors, among others, can be found. Students have 24/7 access to Ford Hall, which includes individual rooms and even a theater students have access to. There’s also the Bistro, which has couches and a constantly shifting music playlist, and Hatfield Library, with its long hours. Yet there is one often overlooked name missing from this list: the Fishbowl. The Fishbowl is a 24/7 study room with swipe access connected to the front of Hatfield Library. Many Willamette students probably know about it, but rarely use it. The space is a simple one, but it is a valuable resource that has the potential to be loved by a wide variety of scholars. This is especially true now, as library staff considers updating the Fishbowl with student input in mind.
The Fishbowl began as an area where people could smoke and eat without having to completely leave the library itself, which prohibited those actions at the time. It also housed a payphone and a campus-specific phone in the days before cell phones. It has been part of Hatfield since the building opened in 1986, and was simply called the 24-Hour Study room until students dubbed it the Fishbowl, in honor of the ring of windows around the room, according to Craig Milberg and other Hatfield Library Staff.
Today, the Fishbowl contains various vending machines with drinks, snacks and even some microwavable meals. It is also well equipped with basic appliances, including a drinking fountain, a microwave and a printer, which is one of the Fishbowl’s main attractions. It is equipped with a book exchange; a small shelf with the message “Take a book, leave a book” serves as an innovative way to share what one enjoys reading and to discover recommendations from others. Despite this, the study space is a bit bare when it comes to furniture, containing only a few couches and small, square tables and chairs.
Enku Castellanos (‘21) described the Fishbowl by saying, “I feel that it’s a very uncomfortable space. I use it when I need to focus for finals.”
The floors are cold and hard, lacking the carpeted floors of the main library, and, as Jaime Dole (’20) said, “It does not smell good,” referring to the odd scent that permeates the room.
Study spaces are a crucial part of life for Willamette students. There seems to be a basic desire to feel comfortable in an area if one is going to spend lots of time there. Students as well as Hatfield staff have opinions on how to improve the Fishbowl.
Sarah Munk (’22) suggested that if the Fishbowl is supposed to be a shared space, perhaps it should be spiced up with something fun like pinball or a jukebox. She also mentioned that when the sun is setting, it shines straight through the windows, and said it would be nice if there was a curtain to lessen the blinding light at that time, but added that otherwise, she likes “the amount of light in the Fishbowl.” Sydney Eldred (’20) suggested having better food in the vending machines.
Craig Milberg, the library administrator, said that the staff at Hatfield have plans to create a better collaborative space in the Fishbowl and are looking for student feedback on what types of improvements Willamette students want to see. They are currently contemplating installing newer furniture and a few more computers. The most recent addition to the Fishbowl is the new swipe access put in place, in order to allow students to feel safer late at night. Milberg said the library will be sending out a survey soon to accumulate student opinions, but mentioned that they also have plans to go out and talk to students in person to make sure that money spent on the Fishbowl is spent fulfilling the wishes of those who use it most.
The 24/7 area has the potential to become a spot created for and by students if their suggestions are implemented. The Fishbowl is ultimately a student space that, with feedback, could become more than just a place to pick up printed items when the library’s other printers are broken.
Art: Grace Shiffrin
The inside of the Fishbowl includes a printer, a couch and several different tables and chairs for studying.