Should our library be 24 hour?

Photo credit - Tomos Nolan

Photo credit – Tomos Nolan

THE LIBRARY is often a source of irritation for many. In the build-up for essays and exams, book forts will sporadically appear upon table tops and students will roll back to their accommodation burdened with stacks of literature. As I poke my head out of mine I glance at the clock, it’s only 10pm. Every student knows this is early in terms of an all-nighter or probably half way if it’s for an essay due the next day. So why does the library torment me with only two hours before I must relocate my fort of books, stall my thought process and find a new warm computer desk to nestle down at?

24 hour computer rooms are available throughout campus, admittedly at least two of them (PJM and Rosser lounge) are more easily accessible if you live in that vicinity. If you do wish to make that long trek across the bridge or up to Rosser you can be assured you’ll be greeted by less than ideal working environments (if you’re like me and need relatively quiet study). There will be freshers ‘panicking’ about their first essay or exams but still talking loudly and let’s not forget the wafting smell of Domino’s or Hollywood as you try to push through the hunger phase around 2am.
Additionally if you live at the bottom of the hill, the hauntingly lone walk down Penglais at 4-6am is another aspect to look forward to – but don’t forget all those books you can’t return to the library until tomorrow (unless you want to risk the book drop-box). Other options include B23, the newly refurbished Geography department room where the lights are on a sensor and WILL dim every 10 minutes forcing you to lose track, or C66 which apart from the lack of books, the smell and being so alone it’s almost scary, it is probably the only other viable option. Where else lends itself to focused work time?

But it will cost a fortune you say. It wouldn’t need to cost a fortune, many 24 hour libraries have minimal staff and reduced running costs throughout the night. Other than a few security staff to check the various floors, very few members of library staff would be required during the late hours, perhaps one information services trained porter to watch the front desk and theft detectors. However, the majority of those that would use the 24 hour library would very rarely need the same assistance that is offered in the daytime. Furthermore, does it not already cost us a fortune to attend university? At £9000 a year the least we can ask for is a space open 24 hour in order to make our very expensive degrees the best they can be. Hell, I’d expect no library fines for that price but that is an entirely separate argument. To get the most out of our money a 24 hour library is essential as I should hope that our fees pay for many of the books in stock. Moreover if the library was turned into a 24 hour space then facilities would need to be improved, such as the lack of water fountains and healthier vending machines, thus making it a better environment in the daytime as well.

When so many other universities have 24 hour libraries, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bath and Leeds just as a few examples, is it not time that libraries like our own start to notice that students often study into the wee hours? Both Hugh Owen and Thomas Parry libraries offer something that the 24 hour computer rooms do not: books. Stacks full at an arm’s length. When you need a quote in a flash you can access the book quickly, and if you need to study in a group it’s easier to share books and space in the library than it is in a busy computer room. Benefits to students would be manifest. Those that find resources lacking as there is often only one copy of a book between twenty students, may have more of a chance if the library was 24 hour.  By being 24 hour, students could take out and return books at all times giving others a greater chance of accessing the sources they need; also giving many the extra time to avoid hefty fines. Especially if those books only happen to be available in the Short Loan collection in which only one pointless ten hour loan is allowed. Additionally, the quiet study space the library offers is not given at any of the computer rooms, which at peak times can be quite busy and loud. People talking loudly, being distracting is not what you need when trying to churn out an essay the night before.

It may be said that perhaps essays should not be left until the night before, however on the odd occasion it is quite hard not to. With books being scarce and essays never being particularly enticing it is hard to resist the draw of leaving it until last minute. With a 24 hour library students could study more when they work best or have time to – let’s not forget those that have to work most days as well to fund their studies and living expenses.

Most importantly students are a diverse range of people; those pulling an all-nighter may not be wholly representative of the entire student body. Not every student studies full-time, those with part-time degrees or alternative courses may need access at out of hours times, especially if they have to work full-time to fund their studies. Limiting opening hours hinders progress, the majority of universities that currently offer 24 hour library services are some of the best universities in the UK. Is our lack of resources holding us back as an academic force?