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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Chosen Rosen: Lengthening library hours

Published: April 1, 2011
Section: Opinions

Like most Brandeisians, I spend much of my waking existence withering away in the library. I usually arrive at 9 or 10 p.m. (after many hours of skillful procrastination) and I burrow myself on the second or third floor, in a land with no cell phone service, no talking and really no distractions outside of the ones I expose myself to on my laptop. It takes me an hour or two to stop wasting time with Fantasy Baseball or browsing through random Wikipedia pages, and eventually I hit a groove. My reading assignments are completed at the speed of sound, as the words fly off the pages into my welcoming mind. Or, if I’m working on a paper, I reach a point where I start typing so quickly that I lose track of what I’m saying, and I slip into the back seat and let my fingers do the driving. The problem is that by the time all this happens, it’s already midnight, and I only have two more hours until the library closes.

Eventually, I am awoken from my intense focus-induced coma by three sharp bells: it’s 1:30 a.m. I still have four pages left to write. I start to panic, and before I know it, six more piercing bells shatter my ear with the hastiness of their call; it’s 1:45. A few minutes pass and a library employee walks by and utters the words that I can’t bring myself to accept: “The library will be closing in 10 minutes.”

I, like many students at Brandeis, stay up exceptionally late during the week to finish my work. Although most students here do not stay up until 5 or 6 a.m. like I do, most of us have to pull a late night every once in a while. Whether it be to write a research paper, cram for an exam or just plain fool around online (browsing through “Glee” songs on YouTube, for example), we all have to stay up late every once in a while. And really the only place that is suitable to these dreary, study-centric nights is the library.

Yes, students can do their work in the lounge in their building, but some students live off-campus and don’t have any place to do work when the library is closed. Additionally, oftentimes, the lounge is already occupied, usually by a group of girls poking fun at the latest parody of Rebecca Black’s song, “Friday.” This would make it awfully difficult to concentrate on anything (besides how much you want it to be Friday). And students should not have to go lounge-hunting across campus at 4 a.m., just because they had nowhere to do work.

Yes, they could do work in their dorm room, but their roommate is probably asleep. And we wouldn’t want to wake him with our lightening-fast typing or our equally-fast page-flipping (these sounds are more than enough to wake my roommate).

Most of you are reading this and screaming at the page: “There is a place where we can go to do our work late at night: the SCC!” While it is terrific that the Shapiro Campus Center is open all night (you can get in with your Brandeis ID), it definitely does not compare to the still tranquility of a library. On the whole, the SCC does not have places like this, but there is the SCC Study Room. If you choose to go into the study room, you’ll find that quiet place that you’re searching for. But why should you have to confine yourself to one small room, jam-packed full of students, scrambling to find a place to sit, when you can go to the library and study anywhere you want?

Plus, the library has many resources that the SCC does not have. The library has a vast array of literature that, although it does not seem like it, students do use. And how can you finish a research assignment due the next morning that requires several non-Internet sources if you don’t have any books? And as we all know, the library has a lot more than books: there are numerous computer rooms, for those of us who do not have a laptop, compared to just one of these rooms in the SCC Study Room. The library also has a Help Desk if you’re having technology problems or if you need help finding a book.

Most of all, the library is absolutely huge. You can study virtually anywhere you choose (even the bathroom). There’s the super-social (and noisy) Green Room—avoid studying here if you plan on doing any actual work. There’s the first-floor computer area, often used for quick assignments or to print something. There’s the cave on the second-floor against the walls, which features optimal desk space and complete quiet (this is my preferred location). And then there’s the infamous dungeon on the third floor—I wouldn’t bring any food on this floor. Just the sound of potato chip being crunched would incite a riot down there.

There are also a lot of secret spots in the library. I discovered these during the Library Scavenger Hunt at the end of last semester. But you’ll just have to go wandering around there yourself to find your own secret spots.

While there are no underground tunnels at the library (or at least none that I know of), the library is one of the university’s best facilities. This is mainly due to the unlimited number of study locations there. Don’t believe me? For the rest of the semester, I challenge you to try to study in a different spot each time you go. I guarantee that the semester will end before you run out of spots.

Compare this to the Shapiro Campus Center. The study room is the only quiet place you can go to get work done late at night. You certainly can’t study for an Organic Chemistry Test out in the middle of the Atrium, where there’s usually countless distractions and just too much space—I don’t know about you guys, but I need to be in an enclosed area to be able to concentrate! Don’t get me wrong—the SCC is great; it just isn’t my first choice for a last-minute study location. And it certainly doesn’t compare to the library.

So I propose that students that want to study at the library can study at the library. The SCC is open all night—why can’t the library stay open all night too? There is certainly a need for it—whenever I leave the library at 2 a.m., I see five or six people leaving at the same time, and a handful of people still in the computer section. And when I head over to the SCC Study Room, the room is often full on both floors. And so I think if the library were to stay open later, students wouldn’t feel forced to migrate over to the SCC Study Room late at night. Consider how much academics would improve: Students would feel like they were being given the resources they need to succeed.

What I do not understand is the library closing so early on the weekends. Yes, it’s completely understandable that on a Friday night, not many people are going to want to finish their report on Keynesian economics. But there is no need to close it at 6 p.m.; 10 p.m. or midnight would be more reasonable, but closing the library eight hours earlier than the normal time is unnecessary. What if someone wants to stay in for a night and write that economics paper.

After all, this is Brandeis—our idea of fun is playing American History Trivial Pursuit. It’s really not that farfetched to assume that a chunk of students would want to do some work either Friday or Saturday night. By closing the library before the sun even sets, these students are being deprived of that opportunity.

I think the best idea that the administration ever had was 24-hour library hours during Finals Week. Students are encouraged to come into the library whenever they please, stay as long as they want, and then head back to shower, eat, go to the bathroom and sleep (if they need to do any of those things). Students never have to check their watches or wonder what time the library closes, because it doesn’t.

A lot of other colleges are recognizing the need for 24-hour libraries—NYU, University of Michigan and University of Arizona to name a few. And many other colleges also have 2 a.m. library closing times, such as Marist and the SUNY schools. I’m not saying that Brandeis is lagging behind compared to other schools. But I am saying that Brandeis is not taking a step forward.