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Students take advantage of longer library hours

Brian McKenzie | Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To help students prepare for midterms, Hesburgh Library opened Sunday morning and will not close until Friday night. Though late-night usage so far has not been significant, a library security guard said that could change as people grow aware of the extended hours.

Security monitor Terry Harper said after-hours library use would peak at “a couple hundred” people, particularly early today and Wednesday morning. However, his records indicated that there were only 40 people on Monday morning at 3 a.m. and 23 at 5 a.m.

He anticipated that turnout would increase dramatically as the week progressed.

“Word’s out now,” he said. “Everybody knows now, and that’s key.”

While the change was instituted in the spring of 2006, word of the late-night midterms hours is still spreading.

Senior Kaitlin Ramsey said she hadn’t known the library was open 24 hours a day during midterms week. Although Ramsey said she is a “night person,” she was doubtful she would use the library after 2 a.m.

Parker Ladwig, interim head of Library User Services, said the library has been open 24 hours during midterms for the past three semesters. During that period, he said library attendance averaged 120 users at 3 a.m. and around 50 users at 5 a.m. By comparison, library attendance during finals week averaged around 160 users at 3 m. and 75 users at 5 a.m.

The main cost of keeping the library open during the pre-exam days is staffing, Ladwig said.

He declined to estimate the cost because he said University staff salary information is not generally released.

“If the library were opened 24 hours more frequently, security for visitors and collections might have to be looked at differently, perhaps with greater cost,” he said.

Senior Je’Rell Rogers said he stays “pretty often until closing.” At the library, he said, “it’s easier to focus, a better study environment with fewer distractions.”

Though Rogers’ workload this week might not be enough to warrant after-hours studying, he said he “definitely would have been there after 2 a.m.” if the library had been open late last week.

Carol Hendrickson, chair of the Student Senate Academic Affairs Committee, said Senate “hasn’t really focused on midterms” besides compiling a report on study space. She said that the report “in effect will potentially help with midterms.”

Senate is working to increase and improve study spaces and printer availability, she said.

“The new library cluster is extremely busy,” she said. “Especially during midterms, a lot of people have papers due and there’s a line for printers between classes in DeBartolo.”

Hendrickson said she hoped student access to study spaces and printers would improve after the University received the Senate’s recommendations.

In January of 2006, the Student Senate moved to have the library open 24 hours per day during midterms week after consulting with library administrators and examining practices at peer institutions, Hendrickson said. She said that “some students on the committee had gone to other universities” where libraries were open 24 hours for midterms.

While senior Mary Hannan said she appreciated that the library was open, she worried there was “a delicate balance between being welcoming to students and keeping the University’s resources safe.”

Using fliers to advertise study areas that were open 24 hours, Hannan said, could “let anyone waltz in” and take valuable equipment. She suggested that a mass e-mail could inform the student body and minimize the risk of theft.