Not all of my Saturday nights are that exciting. I have to admit it. I have certainly spent many a weekend night bleary-eyed and hopped up on caffeine in order to write a paper that should have been done days earlier. We’ve all been there, I think.
So when MSU presidential hopeful David Campbell offered up a potential extension of library hours, I was excited. And I doubt I was the only one. With limited weekend hours (Mills stays open to 5:45 on Fridays and Saturdays, as do Thode and HealthSci), McMaster has not exactly been accommodating.
On July 12, after two months in office as president, Campbell and the MSU were able to reach a deal with the University Library for new hours. Such an announcement should come as welcome news—and yet, something isn’t quite right.
The announcement on the MSU website claims the hours will “dramatically increase.” Mills Learning Commons is to offer 24/5 access starting mid-semester (early October in the fall, mid-February for the winter), while Mills and Thode will extend their hours on Friday nights, remaining open to 9:45 rather than the standard 5:45 pm. Innis will follow suit during exam periods.
While it’s commendable for Campbell and his team to tackle a project such as this, as an avid user of the library I’m left disappointed.
Sure, time-wise the increase is dramatic. But such an increase is easily achieved by offering up Learning Commons til the wee hours of the morning on weekdays. It surely is easier to staff a single-room study area than it is to keep an entire 6-floor library up and running. Though while it makes sense from a library’s perspective, for the students this solution just isn’t good enough.
It’s all well and good to extend hours, but studying in the middle of the night is not a good solution for anyone. A stopgap measure like this appeals to a cramming culture that is definitely not a healthy part of an academic career. It suggests that what students need is a place to binge on information right before a midterm, not a consistent place to work all year long.
The exam hours that have been in place for years have encouraged this too. Maybe for some 24-hour access to Thode is helpful, but I’m left wondering why the focus is only during exams, why there’s not more done in the weeks leading up, when the workload is heavy and students are in the midst of final assignments and papers.
One noteworthy success of the new hours at least is the extension of Friday nights. Finally it’s acknowledged that Friday too is a night to work for many, and that midterms are scheduled on Saturday mornings.
But being a student truly is a full-time job, and Campbell and the University Library would be smart to recognize that and negotiate for longer hours on weekends, too.
It’s clear that we can’t magically create a solution to the need for study space and the proper services for students. After all, the people running the library are only human. But comparing Mac’s library hours to those of other schools, it seems an entirely reasonable feat to accomplish.
At a time when McMaster’s campus is bursting at the seams and students are forever in search of study space, I can only hope that such a feat does become a priority, and that this announcement is one of many steps in the right direction.