As the campus hub for a slew of residential and commuter students, the M.D. Anderson Library provides resources for any UH student, including books and video cameras. Until last summer, couches on the first floor were used by library patrons to catch up on sleep.
In late June 2016, signs were posted in the leisure reading area enforcing the new policy banning sleeping in areas on the first floor.
“There are a couple of safety things we’re worried about,” said Lee Hilyer, the head of information and access services for M.D. Anderson Library. “And just making sure that it’s welcoming and inviting for everyone to come in, instead of (people) flopped around everywhere.”
Hilyer said Dean of Libraries Lisa German asked the library’s advisory council to formulate a policy regarding sleeping in public areas. After deliberation, the council chose to prohibit sleep in specific areas and to recommend against sleeping elsewhere in the library.
The new policy has been active for two semesters. If students sleep in the prohibited areas, procedure dictates a security or a library staff member should wake them up.
Hilyer said no other action beyond a verbal warning has been necessary. One complaint was issued since the policy was enacted when a student disagreed with how they were woken up.
Some students, like public relations senior Cameron Ochoa, supported the reasoning behind the policy.
“I feel like somebody who’s tired should sleep in a personal space,” Ochoa said. “They have study carrels for that reason, where it’s more confined. Myself, I wouldn’t fall asleep in an area like that just because there’s people around there that might want to steal my stuff.”
But not all students agree with Ochoa. Biochemistry senior Cristal Vega supported napping on the couches in the leisure reading area.
“For one, we’re on campus. A lot of people have long breaks — like me,” Vega said. “I have three hour breaks or two hour breaks in between my classes, so we’re tired, we’re studying, we need a break, and it’s comfortable.”
For the provost office’s evaluation of colleges on campus, library staff created a strategic plan for 2017-2021 highlighting the library’s mission.
Some of the changes being considered include adding a coffee shop or food service, 3D printers, a video production lab and napping pods.
The single-student napping pods would include a compartment to store belongings.
“Personally, I wouldn’t use a public napping pod because I believe the library is a place to get work done,” Ochoa said. “Therefore, in my opinion, it isn’t necessary and will only reinforce sleeping in the library.”
During the upcoming summer session, rows of computers in the ground-floor labs will be rearranged or relocated to other floors to create areas for silent computing.
Library staff will meet with an architect from the Facilities Planning and Construction Department to discuss the feasibility of other plans for the first floor. Hilyer looked to the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University and the video lab at Baylor University for inspiration for the M.D. Library’s remodel.
The next steps will be looking for donors to fund their long-term goals, and Hilyer hopes to execute their ideas within the next couple of years, which, she admits, could hit a snag before completion.
“Of course, not all of those plans are going to come to fruition, with the budget climate, or priorities change,” Hilyer said. “Five years is a long time, and things change so quickly.”