ALA 2011: Midnight-2:00 am: What Goes on at the Library?

Peg Lawrence and Lynne Weber from the Memorial Library at Minnesota State University-Mankato spoke about the decision to extend the library’s hours four nights a week. The library closed at 2:00 am instead of midnight Monday through Thursday in order to meet student demand. After extending the hours, the librarians created a research project, complete with a research plan, IRB approval, and a research grant, to learn about the students who used the library between midnight and 2:00 am. Data collection methods included observation, paper surveys from over 260 late night users, interviews, and statistics collected at thirty-minute intervals.

The top two reasons for late-night library use were to find a quiet place to study (#1) and to use the computers (#2). Seniors were most likely to use the library after midnight, and use was heaviest at the end of the semester. Students expressed an interest in more late night hours and more sections of the library being open late. The research revealed that late night library use was more common among males than females, and the presenters realized that a further area of study would be to investigate security concerns among female users.

I have been asked at my own library if we could be open late during finals week, and I answered that we did not have the personnel to add more hours. I was surprised that at Memorial Library, student employees staffed the late-night hours. At UNM-G, we always have a permanent staff member present during open hours; work study students are never left alone.

The users of UNM-G would definitely benefit from later hours. Many of them probably have trouble finding a quiet place to study since living with extended family is common. Also, many UNM-G students do not have computers, online access at home, and/or a printer.

I almost didn’t attend this session because my library closes at 9:00 pm. However, I am glad I did because I have a notion of what might happen if we were to stay open later and whether or not I should advocate on behalf of the Zollinger Library patrons for longer hours. At this point, we really don’t have the staff. We currently have three permanent employees, but we should have 7.5.


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