Responding to several students’ requests, the Library Committee convened on Monday, September 27 to discuss the possibility of keeping the Schow Science Library open 24 hours a day. Ultimately, the committee, which consists of three students, three faculty members, the provost, the custodian of the Chapin library and the college librarian, decided against increasing the hours.
College Librarian David Pilachowski explained the committee’s decision by first pointing to libraries at comparable liberal art schools that maintain similar hours. According to Pilachowski, the libraries at Amherst College and Wesleyan University have almost the exact same hours as Sawyer Library and Schow.
Pilachowski went on to state that the committee felt students were interested in longer hours “not for the books, but just for a quiet place to study.” He pointed to several other areas that provide these study areas, such as Goodrich, Jesup and Bronfman.
Helana Warburg, Head of the Schow Science Library, added that the Unified Science Center will soon open “cooperative spaces,” 24-hour rooms designed to meet students’ study needs.
Pilachowski also questioned the need to give students 24-hour access to the library since a number of its facilities are currently available online. The library web page provides access to 500 journals as well as the Lexis-Nexis article search engine. As a result, “more and more students are accessing the library from their rooms,” Pilachowski said.
The committee also took into consideration the library’s budget. In order to supervise the library throughout the night, two new positions would have to be created. Both Pilachowski and Warburg expressed concern that other projects would suffer from this diversion of library funds. They felt that filling a second professional position to assist students in their research would better serve the student body’s interest.
Their final concern was with the quality of services that the library would provide if it remained open past midnight. The new positions created to keep the library open would serve only to provide security not research assistance. Students, then, would have no one to turn to for help.
Dean of the College Peter Murphy responded to the decision saying, “my own opinion is that if the Science Library is not to be a 24-hour space, then we need to look afresh at the issue and find some good alternative. I suppose such a space need not have specific collections, but I do think it needs to be appropriate for academic work. It needs to have desks, lamps, some places for people to study together, some informal seating, and so on.”
Murphy ended by stating that providing students with comfortable 24-hour study spaces is “not simply a ‘library’ issue. It is a community issue, and we will need to get several heads together to solve it.”