Reevaluating the library hours

Posted by Mariel Kennedy

With the approach of the end of the semester and the ominous cloud of final exams hanging overhead, many Skidmore students are flocking to the library for extended study sessions. A question on several students' minds this semester is whether the library will have enough space for the student body with this year's overpopulated first-year class.

Normally, the library closes at 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and at 10 p.m. on the weekends. During finals (Dec. 5 – Dec. 20) the library extends its hours, closing at 2 a.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

"We track library usage with gate counts that measure traffic through the library front doors and headcounts 90 and 30 minutes before closing. We also look at the academic calendar and the library usage patterns each fall and spring as well as over the year as a whole. This information helps us determine when the library is likely to be used most heavily," said John Cosgrove, access services and humanities librarian.

Hours are extended during finals to meet demands of the student body while not putting too much additional pressure on library staff that need to work later to keep the facilities open.

Colleges such as Duke and Boston University boast libraries that never close, an option that Cosgrove believes would be unnecessary at Skidmore.

"Several years ago we stayed open until 2 a.m. instead of 1 a.m. for an entire semester and there just was not enough late-night traffic to continue those hours," he said.

Even with the surplus of students in the freshman class, Cosgrove believes the recent patterns of usage do not show enough students regularly using the library late at night to warrant a change in hours.

"The targeted approach to extended hours seems to work pretty well to meet overall student demand for the library," Cosgrove said.

Most 24-hour college libraries are part of larger universities, while smaller schools that claim to be open 24 hours only offer a small section of the library all night, Cosgrove explained.

"We do not currently have a space in our library that could be locked off from the rest of the building and provide 24 hour study space," Cosgrove said.

Students are not the only members of the Skidmore community who would be affected by changing library hours.

"We do not have the staff to keep the library open 24 hours. Also, we rely very heavily on student staff to keep the library open. Those students have midterms and finals too."

Though many students feel they would benefit from extended library hours, Caitlin Allen '12 believes the current library hours work well .

"Personally, I need sleep during finals and the latest I'll stay at the library is 1:00 am. A 24 hours library is unnecessary, because most students won't stay too late. Case Center is open, and the school doesn't need to spend the extra money putting faculty [in the library] too late," Allen said.

Gabby Carboni '14 agreed, saying, "Sometimes it's a good thing that the hours are 8 a.m-1 a.m., because then I can't stay there all night. When I have a lot of work, I probably would stay all night. Depending on how much work I have and what kind of work it is, I sometimes stay in the library for a solid 5-6 hours. I prefer studying there than in my triple, which can feel crowded. "

With a busy part of the semester coming up, upperclassmen seem worried about space in the library more than the hours. Allen is concerned about crunch-time space.

"The library seems to be overcrowded at all times, especially during finals," she said.

The library staff understands student concerns regarding space, and classrooms in the library are often opened for students to allow for more space during finals.

For students who cannot find space in the library, or those who prefer a less crowded environment, Case Center, Student Academic Services and residence hall study rooms are alternative options for space to hit the books.

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