Day or Night, A Place to Study
Following an Undergraduate Council (UC) proposal, Harvard College Libraries (HCL) announced that this fall, it will start a two-year pilot program to keep Lamont Library’s doors open 24 hours a day during the workweek.
The plan is largely the result of a UC effort to demonstrate the “overwhelming” demand for a 24-hour student workspace. In a phone-survey study this January, the UC found that the current Lamont schedule did not serve students’ study habits, as over 66 percent of undergraduates continue to work after Lamont closes at 12:45 a.m.
The new library schedule will leave Lamont open from 8 a.m. on Sunday to 9:45 p.m. on Friday, said Larsen Librarian of Harvard College Nancy M. Cline. Lamont will not change its Saturday hours—8 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
The initiative will be entirely funded from Lamont’s standing budget, but Cline says the money can’t sustain the program for more than two years.
“If this project is successful, then we will have to look at finding ways of creating permanent funding to carry it forward,” Cline says.
HCL will hire additional staff of both libary and student employees to accommodate Lamont’s extended schedule. Library circulation, reserves, the main reading rooms, and the Morse Music Library and Media Center will be open around the clock, while Government Documents and Microforms, the Poetry Room, and the Forum Room will not alter their current hours.
The pilot comes after several years of student demand for a 24-hour workspace. John S. Haddock ’07, who co-wrote the UC’s proposal with Ryan A. Peterson ’08, says that the UC has made proposals in the past but that HCL and the University were not responsive until the UC presented the data collected this year.
“The numbers made the case,” says Haddock.
“Once we were able to present to the University how committed students were to their work, the University recognized that students don’t work normal hours,” says Haddock. “It was a huge part on the University to accommodate this reality.”
HCL and the college had previously tried to meet students’ needs by keeping house dining halls open throughout the night as a study space after Lamont closed.
Cline acknowledges that this did not provide a long term solution, as “students complained the spaces were noisy and that they didn’t provide the level of privacy and quietness of a library setting.”
Although Lamont would be the first 24-hour HCL library, some upperclass Houses, such as Adams, already provide 24 hour study spaces. Haddock said this offered a solution to the Houses’ respective residents, but that “most students, especially freshman, were unaware of these options or felt unsafe to walk late at night to the libraries.”
Safety was a major concern in the decision to extend Lamont’s hours. The current shuttle system only runs until 4 a.m., but Assistant Dean of the College Paul J. McLoughlin II says that over the summer the College will consider extending it’s shuttle service.
“A feasibility study will be necessary in the fall to determine student demand for a shuttle past 4 a.m.,” McLoughlin says. “There is always a budget consideration that in order to extend the shuttle, a student service will have to be cut somewhere else.”
McLoughlin says that if student demand is not high enough, it would be more cost efficient to provide a van service rather than keep the shuttle running for 24 hours.
In addition to accommodating safety, HCL and the College had also considered putting a café in Lamont. Cline says that a café is not currently on HCL’s agenda, but that some sort of food in the library, such as vending machines, might still be a possibility.
“We know that food is an important issue, but we don’t have a solution right now,” Cline says. “We are looking to explore if there is some modest thing we can do, but nothing will be ready by the opening celebration in the fall.”
—Staff writer Carolyn A. Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com.