Speed Library’s Open Hours Extend until Midnight / Gracie Lee

         MC students often fall into two categories: the ones who study in the Commons and the ones who study in the library. For those who frequent Leland Speed Library, a welcome change has occurred. In contrast to its usual closing time of 9:30 p.m., students can now access the building between 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Sundays. In addition to this, the library’s Starbucks has switched their closing hours from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. These changes became effective at the start of the spring semester on Jan. 10. 

In the last few years, the library has withstood societal changes like the transition from printed to digital written works. In a world of online databases and SparkNotes, students weren’t utilizing the library’s checkout systems or stacks. It was simply a quiet, common place to eliminate homework from their to-do lists. 

Although the students who did study at the library wanted longer hours, the library didn’t bring in enough traffic during the day to allow them to stay open longer. In 2018-2019, records showed that attendance greatly dropped off after 9:00 p.m. When COVID-19 hindered in-person operations, even fewer students attended because of the indoor mask mandate–which stayed in operation on MC’s campus until October of 2021. 

When faculty lost the night supervisor at the end of the fall semester, the rest of the staff pitched in and rotated until midnight during finals week. The library did continue to open promptly at 7:30 a.m. every morning. “Many students need to print papers and make last minute edits to assignments before 8:00 a.m. using the library’s computers,” Claudia Conklin, library director, said. “Early morning classes that meet in our two e-classrooms need access to the building as well.”

 SGA Senator Mason Fahy was tired of hearing complaints about the library’s limited availability. “I just kind of spearheaded this,” Fahy said. “I had enough complaints from a variety of different people. So many people just talk about a problem. But SGA is about seeing a problem and finding a solution.” He began by drafting a Senate bill and bringing it to the attention of administration and library staff in late October of 2021. His peers in SGA are also among those who brought about the upstairs study rooms, a favorite amongst bio pre-med majors–one of MC’s most prominent fields of study. 

“Most students don’t start studying until–let’s be honest–10:00 p.m. We’re a retirement town, but we’re not a retirement college,” Fahy joked. “It was a partnership between SGA and the administration and the library staff. [We asked] ‘What can we do to best meet the students’ needs?’”As part of the Auxiliary Services Committee, Fahy petitioned for later coffee shop hours as a bonus. 

When he talked with the library staff, he found out that a main hindrance was the lack of student workers available to cover night shifts.  “[I said] ‘Let’s talk to the university to get the funding,’ and they did and were able to hire somebody,” Fahy said. “We saw a need and tried to meet a need. There was a disconnect, but all it took was going through the right channels.” 

This process required approval from the assistant provost and additional supervisors who could train the additional student workers. “At the end of each term, the library staff make improvements to our services or spaces based on usage statistics, observations and suggestions,” Conklin said. “Budgeting is always important, but COVID-19 guidelines, statistics, and a staff shortage were major reasons [for the shortage of student workers].”

Although student traffic fluctuates between semesters, Conklin noted that their unique opportunities seek to engage and encourage students. The librarians and staff seek to provide students with help in their research questions or on how to use the library’s resources. Besides academic assistance, it hosts activities like movies in the lobby or contests. “Our goal is to provide as much service and support as we can, in a variety of ways,” Conklin said. 

Beth Owen, a senior nursing major, is grateful for the new changes. “I remember the time when we could study every night until 1:00 a.m. and I miss those days,” she said. “It has really good resources that are sometimes necessary for doing homework and assignments. It allowed us to have more unbroken school time, because when you’re forced to leave a place in the middle of an assignment, it really messes up the flow of your work.” 

Caroline McGuffee, president of SAPA (Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors), and her cohorts recognized the need for a safe space to study in their November safety concerns report. “By closing the library, a safe and well-lit place to study, this forces students off-campus or maybe even to academic buildings with notorious lighting issues,” she said. “As a student concerned about the community, I am glad the library is offering a safe option for students to study.”

The library’s new implementations allow students of all majors to have a common place to socialize, study, and read without interruption. “The fact that they’re open until midnight is a step in the right direction,” Owen said. 

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