An Insider’s Guide to the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons

This post comes with my most humble apologies that I have been away for such a long time. I have been beavering away with my ASO1 project (a kind of mini dissertation) which is set in September and due in mid-November. I’ve received my results today though and it seems like all the hard work’s paid off!

Recently I’ve also been getting back in to my live music habit, seeing bands all over Manchester (and Salford). From the back room of a pub to an arena with a capacity of 40,000 to a church – Manchester definitely has a wide range of brilliant venues!

With more deadlines looming I have found myself spending a lot of my time in the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, affectionately known as Ali G. Completed a couple of years ago, it’s a great space to work, with artwork by current students and big comfy sofas. Its got over 400 computers, a heap of study rooms and loads of space to work from your laptop. It’s also a ‘smart building’, the heating and lighting are able to adjust themselves to perfect levels and the roof is covered in grass which collects water for the toilets or something. I dunno. To be honest that’s not the part I’m most bothered about. In a shiny new building like this my biggest priority is FINDING A SEAT.

We start with the lift up to the 3rd floor and work our way down. Amateurs may start at the ground floor so there’s hope that spaces are more likely on the top floor as they fill up the building from the bottom. Turning left out of the lift is your best bet, to the square sofas and hopefully a space. Often frequented by those doing group work, these big sofas are not ideal for independent work when you’re stressed out about a close deadline but they will do if necessary.

Making our way to the front of the building, it becomes quieter and you’re into the realm of winged armchairs. Manchester has 12 nobel laureates and each of them has a big purple chair as homage. So far I’ve sat on Ernest Rutherford, Andre Geim and Hans Albrecht Bethe. These chairs are hotly contested so we may have to proceed to the front of the building, to the smaller sofas. Etiquette dictates that if there is someone sat on a two-seater sofa the other seat automatically ceases becoming an option, no one enjoys being squeezed up next to a stranger when you’re cramming for an exam. With this in mind, all seat prospects in this part of the building are diminished by half. Some people are so polite they would rather pull a chair up to the windowsill or sit on the ledge itself, so keen are they not to disturb other students.

Eleanor - purple chair Eleanor - no space Eleanor - windowsill working

Much overlooked are the areas immediately at the top of the stairs, there’s likely to be more noise and through traffic but that can sometimes be a good thing if you want to try and impress by looking like you’re working really hard. The key to finding a seat is to not look like you’ve just arrived, as this will only make those who’ve been there since 7am/over night when there were a choice of seats feel smug that they’re working harder than you.

Once a seat is secured, it’s about finding a plug for your laptop. Ali G hosts an ample amount of plugs but you can’t be shy to ask people to budge if they’re sat on it or need to trail a wire behind them/on their knee. This is a totally acceptable and expected request.

The next thing to do as soon as you’ve found a spot is to leave your coat in your spot for an hour whilst you go for a coffee in the cafe downstairs. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was mandatory as it is an over-frequent occurrence. If you think anyone is behaving badly or hogging a space whilst they’re off for a 3 course meal you can always send a sneaky text to the staff to come and sort them out.

When you’re sat down its always important to keep a look out for people leaving spots better than yours, or unattended laptop trays. You will need to act quickly to snag these for yourself.

After all this it’s time to get down to the actual work you came in to do, which makes the challenge of finding the perfect spot worthwhile. Thankfully, its a really productive environment to work in and a comfy chair makes all the difference for how much time you spend and therefore how much work gets done!

Now if you’ll excuse me, the boy opposite in the left handed arm chair with the stool as a foot rest is packing his bag, so I’ve got to act fast…

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