Privacy Pods at Henry Ford College

Privacy Pods illustration by Falaah Abdun-Nur

The Eshleman Library at Henry Ford College has recently introduced two new individual meeting pods, which are located in the Media Center space on the second floor and are available to any student currently enrolled in a synchronous online class.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, HFC has seen a surge in popularity of online synchronous and asynchronous classes. As a result, many students transitioned from attending in-person classes to taking them online. In doing so, private study spaces increased in demand to accommodate the students who needed to use the college’s WiFi. Most notably, those students who were registered for synchronous online classes needed a place on campus to privately attend their online meetings.

Henry Ford College Director of the Library and Academic Support Services, Dr. Kate Harger, stated, “The library decided to install individual meeting pods to address an emerging need we were seeing in the library. Individual students were seeking use of our library group study rooms because they needed a place to meet privately for their HFC live online class. The college was lacking in space on campus in which individual students could meet privately for their online classes, so the library decided to address that need.”

Unlike the group study rooms, the new meeting pods are soundproof inside and out. Harger outlined how the new meeting pods allowed for students to engage in noisy activities, such as talking in class and playing audio during their live streaming online classes without disturbing others in the library.

“If the door to the pod is closed, the pod is almost completely soundproof,” said Harger, “Students may talk or give a presentation during their online class and not disturb others sitting near the pod. Also, students can meet for their online class in a space that blocks out surrounding noise so there is a reduced likelihood of distraction.”

Each unit is furnished with a padded bench seat, a desktop, interior lighting, and a double outlet.

“Most students learn best when they have a dedicated, effective meeting space for their online courses – one that is free of distractions, interruptions, and loud background noise,” said Harger, “The individual meeting pods offer the perfect environment in which a student can concentrate and participate in online learning without distractions from others and without themselves being a distraction to those around them.”

Harger explained that the library plans to add more individual meeting pods if the current installments are received well. She noted that the response so far has been positive, but explains that word needs to get out about them to increase the awareness of their existence.

“The library’s group study rooms are extremely popular – they’re almost always in use – so we expect the same of our individual pods, once the word gets out to students that we have them,” said Harger.

According to Harger, a major criticism of the meeting pods is that they shouldn’t only be accessible to synchronous online students, as students would also like to use it to study for other classes.

Harger explained, “We will consider expanding the purposes for which the pods can be used, but, for now, we want to give our online learners an opportunity to use them because that is the purpose for which they were implemented. “

Individual meeting pods are available on a “first come, first served” basis and are not available for reservation. “If the pods grow in popularity, we may implement a reservation system in the future,” said Harger.

Students who plan to use the pods are expected to present their current course schedule to confirm that a synchronous class is taking place at the time during its use, as they are currently only available for online meetings. “Pods are for use during the class session only. Once the class is over, we ask that students vacate the pods so that others may use them,” said Harger.

To date, the Eshleman Library has several study spaces to offer, whether it be for small groups of students or individuals. That now includes the new individual meeting pods for synchronous online learners.

“The Eshleman Library aims to provide resources and services that address all our learners’ needs, including space-related needs, whether that’s places to talk and work in groups, spaces in which to study quietly, silent spaces, spaces in which to access a computer and/or printer/copier, or spaces to meet for an HFC synchronous online class,” said Harger.

In addition to the individual meeting pods, the library has also invested in a “sound-dampening tabletop privacy panel” – a gray, three-walled portable partition – as an extra resource for students to study. If these are enjoyed by students as well, Harger plans to install more.

“This privacy panel is available for use anywhere within the library and allows for greater flexibility of our existing seating – tables that might otherwise be less quiet and private can be turned into more quiet, private spaces with the use of these screens,” said Harger.

“The pods align with HFC’s strategic goals related to student success. Whenever we see emerging academic needs, we do our best to implement new services and resources to address those needs,” said Harger, “Students are great about telling us what they need, and I like to think that we as a college are great at listening and responding to those needs. The pods are just one example of an emerging need that we heard about from students and then responded.”

Harger encourages students to try the new privacy pods. If student demand for the pods increase, it’s possible that more of them will be installed in the future.

For questions about the privacy pods and information on other services at the Eshleman Library, phone library staff at 313-845-9606 or email: