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Main Library should be open 24 hours all year — not just during finals week

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 14, 2009 7:30 AM

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Casting a threatening shadow upon habitual procrastinators, the bane of finals week is, at long last, a reality. And it’s going to take more than energy drinks, dopamine-increasing pharmaceuticals, and coffee-stained study guides to sustain the average UI student through Friday.

Luckily, other options exist. The UI Student Government — working with administrators and the Campus Activities Board — will offer 24-hour study at both the IMU and Main Library. In addition, Nite Ride will operate until 5 a.m., a laudable commitment to safety.

Augmented student services are of genuine importance to the intellectual community. But one week isn’t nearly enough.

Approximately half of our Big Ten brethren keep a library open at all times. UI decision-makers should follow suit and make the Main Library accessible to students at all times.

Inadequate space and access is the cardinal concern. Bringing up water cooler — or in Iowa City’s case, watering hole — conversation about the library often evokes archetypal connotations: loud study areas, scarce seating and outlets, and an expensive, yet choked-full parking lot. Students have a right to use the resources they fund, and those resources should be readily accessible.

Carrie Kruse, the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison library, told the DI last month she believes it’s “pretty important” to have a building with extended hours.

“Our society is a 24-hour society,” she said. “There’s a frame of mind that we need to do anything we’re able to at any hour of the day.”

Some officials may see a 24-hour library as unfeasible; fiscal burdens remain the highest of administrators’ concern, as they most certainly should.

But we don’t necessarily agree with appeals to impracticality, and consequently, we propose this utilitarian plan: Section off a designated area of the library to remain open Monday through Thursday; employ work-study students who would work no more than two graveyard shifts per week; implement a check-in, check-out procedure for UI students who wish to study during “dead hours”; and, to mitigate expenses, charge 50 cents an hour during usual hours of closure. Students could bypass the hourly fee with a $20-per-semester pass.

Sharing the operating cost between the university and UISG could also help. While UISG members have favored expanding library hours, budget cuts have fettered some of their goals.

“If it were any other year, I don’t think it would be that much of an issue,” UISG President Michael Currie said about round-the-clock studying.

Expanded hours and services during finals week caters to the student population, and we applaud those responsible. But it’s only a rudimentary step toward an ultimately uncluttered, quieter, and ever-available Main Library.


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