From the Spring 2015 Newsletter
In the Spring of 1982, in response to student demand, the library at the State University of New York at Buffalo remained open 24/7 for the last two weeks of each semester so students could prepare for final exams. (Heim, M. E. (1990). Open twenty-four hours: a case study) This tradition continues to this day, but when it began, and at least for a decade after, SUNY Buffalo had little company. (Hours, University of Buffalo Libraries.) The Lloyd Sealy Library tried a 24-hour library program 15 years ago, but at that time, only a few students took advantage of it.
It was not until 2011 that the scales seemed to tip decidedly in favor of such programs. That year over 70% of surveyed respondents from academic or research libraries reported that they offered some form of 24/7 access to the library or library connected spaces. (Scarletto, E. A., Burhanna, K. J., & Richardson, E. (2013). Wide Awake at 4AM: A Study of Late Night User Behavior, Perceptions and Performance at an Academic Library. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(5), 371-377.) In 2014, the Lloyd Sealy Library, rejoined this service oriented group with funding from the Student Council and the very generous and capable assistance of the Public Safety Department. At the behest of students—like those who attended SUNY Buffalo over 30 years ago—the library’s reserve lab remained open 24/7 during the final two weeks of each semester. (See announcement for our spring 2015 hours.)
The library website is visited millions of times each year by users who may never step foot inside its physical structure. Given the vast, and growing, amount of scholarly content that is delivered electronically to users, this should come as no surprise. But how does this square with the demand for increased library hours? What does this portend for our library, or libraries in general, as valued learning spaces? Based on the number of students in the library lab during the extended hours (and not even including the scores of visitors to the library during regular hours), it indicates that the library as a place to study quietly, work on a research paper or project, print or scan documents and access the internet is valued as much as ever. (For a discussion of the demand for more library hours despite the increase in electronic resources see Albanese, A. R. (2005). The best thing a library can be is open: More library resources than ever are available 24 hours a day. So why are students demanding the same of the library itself? Library Journal, 130(15), 42-45.)
John Jay students in the library lab during each hour of the extended hours (the times the library lab would otherwise have been closed) logged in over 7,500 hours of study and research! About 3,000 of these hours occurred during the May session and over 4,500 during the December session. An impressive 48% increase -- even after taking into account the fact that the Niederhoffer Lounge across from the library lab was also open in the December period to make room for the students who were turned away in May.
As shown by the charts below, the busiest hour over the entire 2 week period was around 11 pm. At this time over 430 and 1,082 student hours were counted during the May and December sessions respectively. The data also shows that the number of students in the lab slowly dwindled throughout the early morning hours, but that between 7am and 8am, these numbers started to rise again.
Looking at the charts below showing the data by date, the most popular day of the week for studying during these extended hours was the Sunday night before final examinations began. Student counts peaked at over 460 students on Sunday May 18th and at over 580 students on Sunday December 14th. Comparing activity during the May and December sessions by date also shows that not only did the overall number of student hours increase but the use each day was more evenly distributed across the entire two week period. This suggests more consistent use of the library lab by individual students or an increase in the number of students taking advantage of the extended hours—both favorable indicators!
Who were these dedicated students? Were they writing research papers or studying for final exams? What resources were they accessing? Can we draw a correlation between these after-hour library users and academic success, retention rates and other strategic goals? All great questions for future research.
The impetus for the 24/7 library lab hours began as a request from John Jay students. The collaborative efforts of Shereef Hassan, President of the Student Council; Dean Kenneth Holmes; Kevin Cassidy, the Director of Public Safety; and Janice Dunham, Associate Librarian for User Services, brought it to fruition. With funding from the Student Council the 24-hour library lab will be offered again this Spring for John Jay students. If you believe in it as much as the students who collectively used it for over 7,500 hours in 2014, let it be known. Let’s work on making it a permanent tradition at the Lloyd Sealy Library.
Ed. note: this article was published in a slightly different form in the print newsletter.