What comes to mind when the UC Santa Barbara Library is mentioned? Perhaps the view from the eighth floor or the clamor of students walking through the Paseo on their way to class. But for most, it is a place to study.

There are several study areas on each floor with a variety of seating, such as cubicles and large tables. This variation allows students to find certain study areas more conducive to productivity.

Yet, the eight floors and several study areas become especially busy during specific weeks of the quarter, often aligning with midterm and finals season. 

“During finals, it’s hard for me to find places to study because I normally prefer getting the [standing] desks,” 2023 communication graduate Jude Bangsal said. “I try to switch up: two hours sitting and then an hour standing up. So if it’s finals week or dead week, it’s just impossible to get those.”

In response to student feedback on the issue of finding available space in the UCSB Library, the library staff took the initiative to figure out an effective way to advise students about the library’s occupancy at a given time.

“Library staff investigated various products and determined that Waitz would be the best solution,” Johannes Steffens — the UCSB Library’s communications and marketing manager — said. 

Waitz is an application developed by Occuspace — a company founded by UC San Diego graduates — that updates in real-time to inform students about the occupancy of different areas in the library. There are multiple screens displaying the Waitz dashboard located around the library, notably one on the first floor past the services desk. 

Since then, Occuspace’s technology has been used in library plans for staff management, cleaning schedules and renovations, in addition to tracking available study space. “Typically, our customers use our historical data to assess space utilization over time, empowering them to make data-driven operational decisions,” Nic Halverson — chief executive officer of Occuspace — said. 

For the UCSB Library, where the majority of visitors are students, the utility of Waitz is simple: finding an uncrowded study area.

Steffens has collected anonymous responses from students since the implementation of Waitz. “Waitz is kind of the best thing to happen to the library in a long time,” one student wrote.

Usage of the Waitz app and website has steadily increased since its adoption by the library.

“We’ve seen triple the number of new visitors to the Waitz site and Waitz app downloads this January compared to the previous year, indicating more students are using the Waitz data to plan their library visits and better navigate crowds,” Steffens added. 

To collect occupancy data, Waitz sensors are located throughout the library. Using anonymized Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signal data, the sensors estimate the number of people nearby. The Waitz data provides the average hourly occupancy of all library floors.

The library staff occasionally validate the Waitz data by manually conducting counts of people in the library. According to Halverson, Occuspace sensor technology has been proven to be over 93% accurate. 

The UCSB Library Building Operations (B.O.P.S.) also tracks library occupancy and provided counts of average occupancy from 2021-23 and gate counts — the number of people who walk through the library doors — from 2016-23.

The chart displays the number of visitors to the library over the past academic year, broken down by week. There are peaks during Weeks 4 and 10 as well as drops during Week 7, 9 and finals. The low numbers of Week 9 during Fall Quarter 2022 and the high numbers of Week 10 are likely due to the Thanksgiving holiday and dead week — the week before finals — respectively. (Grace Nunnelley/ Daily Nexus)

The overall trend in number of occupants over these seven quarters is consistent with UCSB’s reopening and COVID-19 protocols; people were likely still cautious about studying in public spaces during the 2021-22 academic year. This is especially seen in the decrease in popularity during Winter Quarter 2022, when the quarter was partially conducted with remote instruction due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant. (Grace Nunnelley/ Daily Nexus)

The library’s occupancy still has not returned to its pre-pandemic level: about 2 million visited in 2022-23 compared to about 2.5 million visiting in 2018-19. There are also slightly fewer visitors in each spring quarter, which is possibly due to a small percentage of students graduating early at the end of winter quarter.

The data from B.O.P.S. was a somewhat less accurate representation of the library’s popularity because this data also included people passing through the Paseo area. However, the overall trends are similar to the Waitz data. 

The Waitz dashboard also provided the hourly occupancy of each area of the library between September 2021 and June 2023. The data covers the following floors: 1st Floor Mountain Side, 1st Floor Ocean Side, Art & Architecture (on the first floor), 2nd Floor Mountain Side, 2nd Floor Ocean Side, 4th Floor, 5th Floor, 6th Floor, 7th Floor and 8th Floor (the third floor of the library contains no study space). 

The graphic displays the library divided into areas for the purpose of categorizing the data from Waitz. (Julia Ong / Daily Nexus)

The first and second floors are the most popular of all the library floors. The fifth to eighth floors are “quiet floors,” and the overall number of daily visitors reflects that these floors are mainly used as study spaces. The eighth floor is the most popular quiet floor because of the Pacific View Room — a study space behind the elevators with a view of the southern part of campus.

The chart displays the cumulative sum of visitors between September 2021 and June 2023 of each library floor by hour. (Grace Nunnelley/ Daily Nexus )

“The eighth floor is supposed to be quiet, but it’s not because people just think it’s so much fun — they want to see the views. It’s just never been quiet,” Bangsal said. 

The data reflects that the fifth to seventh floors consistently have fewer occupants despite being similar in size to the eighth floor.

The chart “Popular times of the week to visit the library by quarter” displays the cumulative sum of library visitors by hour for each quarter. (Grace Nunnelley / Daily Nexus)

The library rapidly fills up between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., making 3 p.m. the peak of popularity across all floors. Although there are still a significant number of occupants staying past the library’s closing time due to late night study, most occupants do not stay past 3 a.m. 

To beat the crowds, Bangsal used to visit the library group study rooms late at night with his friends.

“We would stay there [from] midnight ’til sunrise. And we would go out to see the sunrise,” he said.

The heatmap displays the mean number of total visitors to the library between September 2021 and June 2023 relative to weekday and hour. (Grace Nunnelley / Daily Nexus)

Katy Costantinidis — the UCSB Library building operations assistant — also said that study spaces usually fill up between 2-4 p.m. on weekdays. 

“There is a noticeable decrease in building occupancy on Fridays and Saturdays as well as before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m. each day,” she said. 

The least popular days to spend in the library are Saturdays and Sundays. There is a sharp drop in occupancy toward the end of the week, notably dropping off Fridays between the hours of 5-6 p.m. and increasing slightly again on Sunday as students prepare for the next week of school. 

These patterns of library occupancy are somewhat disrupted during the last week of each quarter — when final exams occur. Additional staffing is allocated for the custodial team during the weekend between dead week and finals week to supplement the regular cleaning services during the time the library is most crowded, according to Costantinidis. 

“The Building Operations team is particularly mindful to monitor noise on the quiet floors five through eight to ensure the quiet is maintained, particularly during dead week and finals week, when maintaining a quiet environment is of utmost importance to support focused study and academic success,” Costantinidis said.

Bangsal said he prefers the library to study above other campus study spots.

“It’s just the environment, like everyone you can see is working hard. [It gives me] encouragement to study too,” Bangsal said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 8 and p. 9 of the Nov. 2, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.