In June of 2010, the Doe Library and the Graduate Division opened a special place for graduate students who want to (or simply must) do some serious writing on their dissertations.

Like that all-important first paragraph, it was a start.

While not actually austere — it had a multicolored carpet on much of the floor — neither was it luxurious. It soon had users (dozens, from at least 17 different departments and programs), and they were glad it was there. But, since suggestions to improve it were welcomed, and, being grad students in a verbal mode, the users weren’t at all shy in offering their thoughts.

These were taken seriously.

In just about the gestation period of a rhinoceros (which is really not much more than a year) and on a small joint budget, the Dissertation Writer’s Room was inaugurated, road-tested, and then thoroughly renovated, incorporating many of the desired (and feasible) suggestions from users.

From a spare, bare (except for the carpet) box that seated six with highly utilitarian chairs and two tables, and the library’s patented peace and quiet, the transformation is dramatic.

The peace and quiet remain, but now twelve grad students may now sit comfortably in new chairs at six new tables or in easy chairs, with lighting controlled by new window shades and new lamps. The walls are repainted with a pleasing color scheme and decorated with prints from the Morrison Library Graphic Arts Collection. The room already had wireless Internet connection via AirBears, but perhaps most useful of all are 24 new lockers in the room, of which 19 can be checked out for an academic year while the remaining five will be checked out to grad students for the day. A library blog welcomes the locker advent this way: “goodbye to the drag it was of dragging that bag full of books and your computer back and forth.”

Charlie Carroll
Charlie Carroll and his daughter, at boat races in Sishaket Village in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Lao PDR was the site of his long-term ethnographic fieldwork. Next stop: work at the National University of Singapore.

One student user who had plenty of suggestions (including lockers) was Charles Carroll, who has now completed his Ph.D. in Cultural Transformation, Political Economy, and Social Practice. On the way there, he found the room to be “incredibly helpful. As an interdisciplinary Ph.D. student of a retired faculty member, I did not have access to study space in a given department. The room in Doe provided a very comfortable workspace and, as I believe was the intent, a venue for socializing with other students who were in the same ‘got to get done ASAP’ boat.” Conversations with students from other disciplines led to unknown-to-him resources on campus, through one of which “I found my employment for the next two years.” Carroll offers this further testimonial: “My time as a grad student at UCB was longer than most, but it would have beenmuch longer if I had not had access to the Dissertation Writer’s Room.” He thanked the Graduate Division and the Library for helping “make Berkeley a wonderful place to earn a Ph.D.”

For the Before, check out our coverage from last year.

Here’s the way the room looks now.

Dissertation Writer's Room
The Dissertation Writer's Room, or DWR, is located in Room 215 of the Doe Library, at the rear of Graduate Services (208 Doe). The DWR hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 9 p.m. Remember to bring your UCB ID to show when you enter 208 Doe, as Graduate Services is reserved for the exclusive use of UC Berkeley graduate students, faculty, and staff.

Categories: Featured in eGrad: October 2011, Headlines
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