Officials: No hope for 24-hour library

Student Will Shannon uses a computer in Collier Library.

While some of the larger Division I universities in the south have library hours comparable to UNA’s, State University of West Georgia-one of UNA’s peer institutions of comparable size-moved to a 24/5 schedule last fall.

With big changes coming to UNA, students may find themselves wondering about the future of Collier Library and if it could support a 24-hour system as well.

Probably not, UNA Director of Library Services Dr. Melvin Davis said.

“It’s atypical for universities of this size to have a 24-hour library,” he said. “Libraries at universities of comparable size typically close around 11 or 12.”

To manage a system like the one in place at UWG, Davis said UNA would run into some issues.

“We just don’t have the staff to be able to remain open for those types of hours,” he said. “Our staff is small for our size as it is. From our end, we’d have to justify to folks that we really need (a 24-hour library).”

SGA President Ralph Akalonu said SGA began discussing the prospect of a 24-hour library last year. SGA presented the idea to a library staff that was open to the idea last year, he said. Those discussions gave rise to the 24-hour study days.

“Over the last year, we have made significant strides in (obtaining a 24-hour library schedule), and hopefully in the future it will become a full-fledged operation,” Akalonu said.

Ann Barnhart, head of instructional services for UWG’s Ingram Library, said getting 24/5 library hours was a step-by-step process.

“We started out with sort of a pilot during finals week (fall 2010),” she said. “We worked out funding internally and did it again in the spring. Then we showed the administration the numbers, and they agreed to fund it.”

But the library staff was not the only part of UWG campus pushing for increased hours, Barnhart said.

“Our student government association was also pushing for it the same time we were,” she said. “I suspect this is the main reason it went through. Our only regret is that we stopped at 24/5.”

Barnhart said the test runs during finals week were key in obtaining funding.

“We believed that if we could show the university that a 24-hour system had value, they would fund it,” she said.

And the value was apparent in the number of students who showed up in the wee hours, she said.

“We were completely full during finals week,” Barnhart said.

But UWG hasn’t agreed to permanently fund the 24/5 schedule, Barnhart said.

“The university only agreed to fund it for one year, but we trust they will continue to give us the money,” she said.

Barnhart said the increased library hours at UWG are an effort to help students in more ways than one.

“There was a concern that there weren’t enough non-alcohol-related activities for students,” she said. “So we’re trying to make the library a social place. We want (students) to have options other than getting drunk for entertainment.

“We’re even trying to book live music every other Friday night.”

UWG freshman speech pathology major Jillian Pilgrim said she is in favor of the library’s extended hours.

“I have not pulled an all-nighter yet, but I know that as I enter into my harder classes, the library will probably become a second home for me,” she said. “It is nice to know that I have the option to stay all night in the library and not have to worry about being rushed for time.”

Barnhart said the later hours at Ingram Library are typically slow at the beginning of the semester but increase as the semester progresses.

UNA’s SGA recently began sponsoring 24-hour study days during finals, but attendance at Collier isn’t quite the same as at UWG’s study days.

“We’ve found that the 24-hour study days really taper off around 1 or 2 a.m.,” Davis said. “We close at 1 a.m. most nights anyway.”

But Collier’s hours don’t necessarily have to stay stagnant, Davis said.

“There are lots of angles that need to be explored,” he said. “We’re trying to look at options that fit here and nationally as well.”

One of those options could possibly involve a little library Feng Shui.

“I know some universities keep the library computer labs open 24 hours,” Davis said. “One option would be to reconfigure our space to allow for something like that. Most students don’t use the later hours to check out books anyway.”

UNA Graduate history major Clint Alley is in favor of a 24-hour library.

“As a night owl, I usually do my best work at unconventional hours,” he said. “It would be great to have a library flexible enough to suit those needs.”

UNA freshman fashion merchandising major Conley Easter agrees.

“Some students work later hours than the library is open,” he said. “Plus, the dorms are loud at all hours of the night.”

Regardless of whether or not UNA can afford to extend Collier’s hours, Davis said there are some exciting changes forthcoming.

“This is a great time of transition,” he said. “We’re looking forward to ramping up our research consultations with students and making a lot of changes to the workflow component of the library’s software. There’s a lot of changes about one year down the road.”