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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Campus

Library considers possibility of 24-hour operation with feasibility study


UH’s MD Anderson Memorial Library is currently conducting a feasibility study to test the possibility of expanding to 24 hour operation. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

The University of Houston is the only Tier One university in Texas that doesn’t offer 24-hour library access, but that may soon change.

The MD Anderson Library is currently open until 1:45 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:45 p.m. on Friday and 7:45 p.m. on Saturday. Outside of these hours, a limited 24-hour lounge is available for use. This semester, the library is undergoing a feasibility study to see whether an expansion of the building’s operating hours, or of the current 24-hour lounge, could be possible.

“It’s something that we had heard students were interested in,” said Dean of Libraries Lisa German. “We want to know how many students are here the last hour that the library’s open currently and how many are waiting to get into the building when the library opens.”

Edrick Rougeau, a student member of the Library Advisory Committee and the originator of the initiative, believes many students stand to benefit from an expansion of the library’s 24-hour services. Ideally, Rougeau said, he would like to see the first three floors made available to students throughout the night.

“The end goal is so that students will have the ability to utilize more of the resources they might not have at home,” Rougeau said. “In order for academia to be successful, you have to have the resources necessary for those students to be successful.”

Rougeau said he thinks expanded hours would increase the access students have to resources often pivotal to their academic success. This increased access, he said, could have a dramatic impact on academic performance throughout the University.

There are usually still a lot of students trying to study and work on assignments when the library begins closing, Rougeau said. Those students would be able to work without interruption and could refrain from cramming in their study time if parts of the library remained open later, he said.

“Why not give them the ability to space out their studying? It doesn’t really help to cram,” Rougeau said. “It will help them out with their time management because it’s a resource they really need.”

If expanded operating hours fall short of feasibility, Rougeau said he will continue to push for an increase in services offered in the 24-hour lounge. Rougeau is currently working to get a printer installed in the space.

In addition to printing, the 24-hour lounge is also missing the sound restrictions found in other areas of the library.

“I feel like it’s kind of distracting. It really is, actually, because people are going in and out and they talk,” said nutritional sciences junior Nimra Pasha. “My roommate doesn’t like studying here because she came twice and people were being really loud — it’s not a quiet area and they can be loud if they want to.”

Pasha said she prefers to work in the less noisy areas of the library, like the blue and brown wings, but they aren’t open late at night when she’s usually available to study. Students with roommates or students who can’t study in their rooms could benefit from having a larger, quieter space open to them, she said.

“I was living in CV as an honors student and my roommate woke up early to study, and I stay up all night and study,” Pasha said about her first two years at UH. “It was super inconvenient for her. She learned to sleep with the light on because I was studying in (our room).”

The feasibility study doesn’t necessarily guarantee expanded library hours, German said, but it allows administration to assess whether the library’s financial resources and structure lend it to the possibility of round-the-clock operation.

The most important metric being used in the study, German said, is how it will impact the safety of students — and whether that safety could be guaranteed with extended hours.

“Safety of students is always a top concern,” German said. “We always want to make sure we have a nice, safe space.”

Rougeau said there are a lot of questions regarding how students would be prevented from venturing into areas not part of the 24-hour service. He expects the extended hours would initially only be implemented on the library’s first floor, leaving the remaining floors off-limits during those times.

“Can we lock the doors?” Rougeau said. “Can we actually keep students from going to other floors and being able to hide? Can we shut off the elevator?”

German said the size and open floor plan of the library are some of the biggest obstacles in the way of expansion.

“The building wasn’t constructed for a large 24-hour facility,” German said. “There isn’t a way currently to make the 24-hour space any larger.”

The feasibility study is set to conclude this summer, German said, but it’s too early to tell if and when students might experience later library hours. Even if the study is successful, the expansion could be stalled because funding for the program will need to be secured.

“Depending on what the cost will be, we’ll have to do some fundraising,” German said. “That’s not something that’s currently in the library’s budget. It will heavily depend on philanthropic support.”

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