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CASE STUDY: University of Hawaii at Manoa
Originally conceived to facilitate remote class participation for students, the implementation of phone booths emerged as a prominent attribute of the library's offerings at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Established in 1907, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is the Aloha state’s flagship university. The largest building on campus at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is Hamilton Library. Encompassing over 400,000 square feet and home to more than 3.5 million volumes, Hamilton Library caters to the academic needs of approximately 19,000 students at Mānoa, in addition to serving the broader University of Hawaiʻi system. The phased reopening of the campus after the initial COVID-19 pandemic surge revealed a blend of in-person and virtual class formats, presenting University Librarian Clem Guthro with the challenge of providing suitable spaces for students to engage in remote learning. In response, Guthro repurposed several graduate student study carrels into "Zoom rooms," a solution that quickly reached capacity due to high demand.

"The study carrels we converted to Zoom rooms were fully booked and we still had demand, so I needed to find another solution."

Facing increased student return to campus and the growing popularity of these converted study spaces, Guthro recognized the need to expand such offerings without infringing upon the essential study areas reserved for graduate students. Traditional construction options were deemed impractical due to lengthy approval processes required by the University’s facilities team. Inspiration struck Guthro during a visit to an airport, where the sight of a phone booth in one of the terminals sparked the idea of a novel solution to this spatial challenge.

"They’re full from the moment we open until we close, every day… If the library had more floor space I’d add more Pillar Booths"

"If we went with the most expensive bid we would have only been able to get four booths, but with Pillar Booth’s pricing we were able to buy eleven and still stay within our budget."

In the quest for cost-effective yet high-quality solutions, Guthro began by securing funding from the University’s VP of Administration. Then Guthro solicited bids from phone booth manufacturers, emphasizing the importance of features such as height-adjustable desks, LED lighting, active ventilation, and transparent doors. Pillar Booth emerged as the preferred vendor due to its competitive pricing, which allowed the purchase of eleven booths within the allocated budget, significantly surpassing what would have been possible with more expensive alternatives.

If we went with the most expensive bid we would have only been able to get four booths, but with Pillar Booth’s pricing we were able to buy eleven and still stay within our budget.

All of the students we’ve talked to think the booths are fabulous.

The results

The success of this initiative is evident in the constant utilization of the booths from opening to closing time daily. The diverse uses of the Pillar Booths by students — ranging from Zoom participation to quiet study areas, and providing a secluded yet accessible space for neurodivergent students — underscore their value. Initial skepticism from some library staff transformed into strong advocacy for the concept. And plans to extend this innovation to other buildings undergoing renovations further validates the effectiveness and popularity of the Pillar Booths as a valuable addition to the campus facilities.

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