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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Longer hours needed at Stafford Library

By Sangmin Lee

A library has an important role at an institution. It is a place where students accomplish their primary goal and reason they enter the college: as they study in the library, they can broaden their knowledge. Libraries also let students have opportunities to read various kinds of books and provide a place to study. However, it seems that Columbia College’s Stafford Library doesn’t provide students with enough time to study.

The Stafford Library’s hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. This is comparatively shorter than other institutions’ library hours—the University of Missouri opens its main library from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. and Stephens College has its doors open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

According to Janet Caruthers, director of the Stafford Library, two years ago the library was open until midnight Monday through Thursday. At that time, library staff counted the number of students who used the library from 10:00 p.m. to midnight to see how many people actually used it. They found there weren’t enough students who used the library after 10:00 p.m. The average was three to five people during that two-hour period.

When the library is open, full-time staff members and student workers are in a charge. Based on the result of the head count, Caruthers and Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for Academic Affairs, decided to shorten library hours for the best use of library resources.

Other institutions’ libraries may have a section of the library open late rather than the whole library. Because the Stafford Library building doesn’t have a section that can be separated, it is difficult to have later hours.

Caruthers says other institutions may have libraries that have their own security or safety personnel. However, the library doesn’t have its own security or safety personnel who would work late, so the staff and student workers will work after 10 p.m. if the library is open until late. Caruthers says they also have a problem with hiring workers because they don’t have students who want to work from 10:00 p.m. to midnight.

Although the Stafford Library presents a case to limit library hours, it shouldn’t forget its mission to provide academic services for students. Even if there are few students using the library after 10:00 p.m., those students are willing to study late and might have intentions if the library is opened until late.

Before shortening library hours, the Stafford Library staff didn’t actually survey students about library use; they just counted the number of students who used it. However, these numbers might have been affected by the timing of the head count. In addition, the head count hasn’t been done for several years. The Stafford Library should have done a proper survey that reflects students’ opinions about library hours during the semester, particularly during peak periods such as exam weeks.

For students who live on campus, the library is the best place to study until late night because no proper study areas exist in the residence halls. Although there are community areas, it is difficult for students to concentrate because these areas are not just for studying. Later library hours would provide on-campus students with an opportunity to study more.

Although the structure of the library isn’t conducive to opening a separate section, a financial investment could allow it to be remodeled and provide a separate section for late-night studying. It also could have security or safety personnel monitor it. The library also has difficulty hiring student workers willing to work late hours. If the library’s hourly pay were higher or incentives were provided, it might be easier to find student workers.

Photo: Stafford Library. Photo by Sangmin Lee. 

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