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Why can't the Library offer more service hours?

A comprehensive FAQ exploring the many issues and addressing the recurrent questions related to expanding hours of library operation.

Could you please tell me...

What are the library's hours, anyway?

They are always available here:  The library's regular schedule offers services 96 hours/week.

Why doesn't the library offer round-the-clock (or extended late-night) service hours?

It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis.  Running the library takes money--including tuition money!--and like all University departments, we strive to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us.  We have consistently observed a lack of real student demand for library services and collections (above and beyond our current schedule offerings) that would justify the additional expenditures for staff labor and benefits, utilities, etc.  On any given night, there might be sufficient demand. But the next night there may be none. It's hard to staff for that.

What about round-the-clock hours of operation just during mid-terms and final exams?

We already offer significantly expanded hours of operation during final exams week, the only period during the academic term that increased usage is notably evident.  Mid-terms are tricky--just when IS the mid-term season? From our perspective, it appears that mid-term exams are scheduled from late September to early November.

 During final exams each semester, we expand to offer at least 24 additional hours that week.  Offering hours beyond those is simply neither feasible nor practical, for the reasons described above, even during final exams.

How do you actually know that there's not enough late-night student usage of the library to justify the offering?

The longitudinal hard data that we have collected tell us this.  Prompted years ago by this very question, each semester during final exams, we count the number of student users in the building between midnight and 3:00 a.m.  Although student traffic during these late-night hours has increased in recent years, what we consistently observe is a negative correlation between the lateness of the hour and the volume of student traffic.  Specifically, for every half-hour beyond midnight that we remain open, there is a ~40% to ~60% drop in student usage.  Extrapolating this out, you can see that by 3:30 or 4:00 a.m., student library usage would be essentially non-existent.  And that's for final exams week; during the regular term, significant library traffic beyond even 1:00 a.m. would be virtually nil.

OK, so it's a question of cost, at least in part.  How much would it cost, exactly, or how much student traffic would be needed to justify offering extended hours?

We have not identified an exact monetary "sweet spot", or tipping point of student traffic, at which point offering extended hours would be a judicious investment of student tuition dollars.  As long as student demand is not actually observably present (in the form of increased traffic), any expenditures would be hard to justify. 

What about offering just the 3rd-floor as 24-hour study space?

In 2004, during past discussions of this issue, we invited an architect to survey the building in order to determine if it would be feasible to "lock off" all but the main floor (the Information Commons), possibly leaving it open 24/7.  The architect determined that this is not possible, given the internal architecture of the library. 


But what other options exist for me as a student, to do late-night studying, research, or paper-writing?

Trinity's administration has worked to respond to student requests for late-night study space by creating areas on lower campus that are close to student housing, don't require staffing, and provide good computer access.  The computer labs in Murchison and Beze arose as a result of this initiative.  Further, the University's wireless network is among the best among U.S. residential colleges, and most students report that they have laptops.  Given that a substantial amount of the library's resources are available on the web: e-reserves, the vast majority of our journals, the online catalog, databases, etc., we thought there might be demand for physical library resources. Circulation of in-house materials indicate that's not the case. Students have told us that that they don't need library-specific resources (ie, print materials); they want computer lab and study space.  So it does not appear that offering additional library hours would actually be the best way to address these needs.  Again, Trinity's administration has listened to those needs and responded by providing alternatives. 

Has ASR (Association of Student Representatives) ever taken up this issue?

Virtually every year for the past decade, at least.  Hence the creation of this FAQ. 

Couldn't we just hire our own students to staff the building for those late hours? 

With what monies would they be paid, specifically?  Who would screen, hire, supervise, and train them?  How would they be held accountable?  What would happen if one or more them were sick, had a schedule conflict, or had to study for their own classes? (In fact, very few of our student workers plan to work during finals--because they need to study and prepare for their own exams.) 

The truth is that the issue is much more complex than simply finding a "warm body" to babysit the building.  We take our students' safety very seriously, and believe that hiring qualified, trustworthy adult professionals to staff the building at night is the only viable option.  Finding and training such staff can be a difficult and costly process.  

With whom can I speak further about this issue?

You can contact Jason Hardin (Manager of Access Services) or Christopher Nolan (University Librarian).