Anyone who got to spend time going to school at the University of Alberta before the pandemic is likely familiar with the 24-hour study spaces on campus. Even some of the study spaces that were not open 24 hours had extended or late night hours that have now been greatly reduced. Though we all got more used to being at home during the pandemic, studying at my kitchen table at 3 a.m. does not hit the same as studying in a library full of other stressed students.
While the rest of campus life has either adapted to the pandemic or has returned nearly to normal, the university’s choice to remove extended hours and 24-hour study spaces in libraries has me wondering whether the university has actually done this with the best interest of students in mind.
However, a statement provided by a U of A spokesperson said that “every safety measure brought in as part of the university’s pandemic response has been implemented in the best interest of maintaining student, faculty, and staff safety,” including deciding “to make minor reductions to building hours.”
Yet, campus returned to mostly normal in the Fall semester, so why did the university really decide to cut library hours? Additionally, in the statement, they said that before to the pandemic, “the Students’ Union Building (SUB) has traditionally been the only building to offer 24-hour access on a regular and ongoing basis.” However, anyone who attended the U of A prior to the Winter 2020 semester knows that the main floor of Cameron Library has also traditionally been open 24 hours to students with OneCard access.
This lack of attention to detail the university administration really shows a level of carelessness, making me question whether or not the lack of 24-hour study spaces is really because of student safety. It truly feels like this decision has been made without the impacts on students being thoroughly considered; many students don’t have access to ideal study spaces at home and use the study spaces provided by the university to be their distraction-free study space where they can be productive. Having a time limit with a closing time would cause more stress to those students and inhibit how much time they have to study in their productive mindset.
While library hours have been extended for finals season, these hours are only temporary and there are still no 24-hour options.
However, students are not the only ones affected by this decision. When a library is closing, it’s the librarian who tells you that you need to pack up and leave, not the administrators who made this decision. In this situation, students are likely to be annoyed with the librarian, not the institution. University librarians have faced unfair aggression and blame, just as all workers have, throughout the pandemic. It is important to understand that if students don’t want more study spaces to be shut down, frustrations cannot be directed towards library staff. Librarians are the ones facing the brunt of the restriction frustration in the U of A libraries when they should be treated with understanding.
While library hours have fluctuated throughout this school year with the many changes brought on by the pandemic, I hope moving forward the university considers bringing back late night and 24-hour study space options for the sake of student accessibility.