Library hours bookended

More generous library hours could facilitate student studies if the budget allowed for it.

by Jake Swede

Unbeknownst to many University of Minnesota students, there has been much discussion by library administrators in the past years about keeping a library open for 24-hour access, five days a week. The seriousness and continued examination of this issue warrants likewise discussion. ThereâÄôs no question that the UniversityâÄôs libraries are the best place to study on campus, but the lack of availability during the late night and early morning hours means that students who desire to use the libraries at these times will find their studies cut short. According to Marlo Welshons, communications director for the University of Minnesota Libraries, the reason the University has declined to expand library hours has been reached through cost-benefit analyses, including considerations of cost of staff, security monitors and upkeep against benefits of lessened numbers of people using the library in the hours before closing and immediately after opening. She concludes that, all in all, âÄúlate night hours havenâÄôt been there to warrant extended hours.âÄù Vicki Taylor, building manager at the University of Wisconsin-MadisonâÄôs 24-hour library, echoes this trend. While the library is utilized during the day, it âÄúget[s] busier at night than in the morning âÄî until 1 or 2 a.m., when the numbers drop off.âÄù While the benefits of usage may decrease closer to morning hours, the cost of running Michigan State UniversityâÄôs 24-hour library is about the same in terms of utilities as if it were closed; itâÄôs $100 an hour more expensive when open for staff. The concern over money allocation is pertinent in the UniversityâÄôs fiscal situation, but the UniversityâÄôs quibbling over cost projections of keeping a library open 35 to 40 extra hours a week in light of a new, non-academically oriented football stadium seems laughably surreal. Although I find it personally hard to imagine meeting the expanded hours, there are many night owls at the University and, conversely, some who prefer to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to do their work. An oft-repeated fear of 24-hour libraries is that people would use the library in the winter simply because it would provide somewhere for people to sleep. The University of ArizonaâÄôs 24-hour library has developed a system to deal with this problem. Only those with card access can open the doors after a certain time of night, making the areas safely optimized for those who require their usage. During a studentâÄôs most pressing academic sojourn, finals week, Wilson and Walter libraries will be open 24 hours. While this period provides an admirable opportunity for students, its popularity illustrates the utility of nocturnal libraries. Unfortunately, there will always be a few days each semester when cramming some last-minute information or pumping out a procrastinated paper will be necessary. The availability of a 24-hour library would provide a wireless, serene and focused setting for accomplishing this task. While the University of Minnesota Libraries have online collections, they arenâÄôt solely sufficient to meet the expansive needs of University students. While the University does provide online access to electronic repositories such as JSTOR and Google Books, these are only accessible if you have a University of Minnesota x500 account. Those who donâÄôt have an x500 are restricted to only the material located within the libraries. While online access may provide a useful auxiliary role to the material shelved in the libraries, it simply canâÄôt measure up to the physical, shelved materials. With the daunting task of budget allocation in the upcoming year, the academic potential for late-night libraries should be seriously revisited by University administration. If we are expected to study two or three hours for each hour we spend in class, the University could make study resources more widely available. Jake Swede welcomes comments at [email protected]