Library curtails hours for second time in two years

This quarter Millar Library users face another reduction in the facility’s hours. With the new winter hours, the library opens half an hour earlier on weekdays and closes an hour earlier in the evenings.

These changes represent a further reduction in open hours from the 24/7 library access that PSU students enjoyed last year, and may leave night owls and procrastinators wondering where to turn. The library will now be open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Sundays, with adjusted hours during dead week and finals.

According to Helen Spalding, the new university librarian behind the changes, the new hours reflect rigorous data collection on library use. “During the four busiest weeks last fall, which included midterms, the library staff performed an hourly count of every person in library. We also did counts during dead week and finals, and what we found was really interesting.”

During the evenings of midterms, the number of library patrons began to drop around 10 p.m. On Monday through Wednesday, there were 125 people in the library by 11:00 p.m., 30 percent of whom were using the first-floor computer lab. At the same time on Thursday, there were 80 patrons, and 20 percent of them were using the computers. On Sunday, there were 85 library users at 11:00 p.m., 25 percent of them in the computer lab.

"In a six floor building, if there are fewer than 100 people out of 24,000 students, it’s not worth being open," Spalding said.

Spalding also cited safety concerns. "The library has no on-site security, and at night there are only five staff people, all on the first floor."

By setting hours that are more cost-effective, Spalding hopes to be able to spread out limited library resources to meet the needs of students in summer session, as well as graduate students and those seeking intersession library access.

"Historically, the library has been closed on Sundays during summer term, but last summer we had 15,000 students," Spalding said. "It hadn’t been budgeted, but we made it happen. We opened the library from 12 to 4 on Sundays, and next summer, we hope to have the library open from 12 to 6 on Sundays. We also want to be able to keep the library open from 8 [a.m.] to 9 [p.m.] on weekdays, rather than 8 [a.m.] to 6 [p.m.], during intersession, and open the library on weekends between summer and fall terms. We can do this by shaving off hours during the year."

Students who need 24-hour computer access or a quiet place to study after library hours have the option of using the Broadway computer lab in room 226 of the Broadway Housing Building. In addition to a sitting room with tables and chairs, this lab has 80 computers, compared to 54 in the library’s downstairs lab. According to the library’s statistics, the Broadway lab has never been full.

"We’re also putting more and more things like course reserves up online," Spalding said, "so that users can access them from home or the computer labs."

The winter changes seem to work well for some students. "It just depends on the student and their schedule," said Kellie Schaefer-Levi, an English major. "The night hours don’t really affect me. I get here early, so it’s great that they’re opening half an hour earlier."

Other students have more complaints about weekend and exam week hours than the earlier closing. "It’s really the weekend hours that bother me," said education undergrad Tommy Beck. "That’s when a lot of people who work have time to study, and they close too early."

Biochemistry student Erin Braithwaite said, "The exam hours are ridiculous. Who waits until the Sunday night before exams to study? Plus, they don’t open until noon on Sunday. I’ve definitely gone to the library to study and then found out they were closed."

"We’re trying to make decisions based on data, rather than anecdotes," Spalding said. "I would love for the library to be open 24 hours, but we’re trying to look at meeting the most needs with the budget we have."