Libraries to have extended hours

McGill/News by

McLennan Library will begin offering 24-hour access as early as October 4 this year, after the Students’ Society’s decision to allocate an additional $80,000 towards extending the library’s hours..

The Students Society’s Library Improvement Fund Committee will be allocating roughly $200,000 towards extended hours, as compared to $120,000 allocated last year. Data collected by the LIFC showed that keeping the libraries open longer was a priority for students. Additional McGill libraries will also be holding extended hours earlier in the term than in previous years.

“We started 24-hour access much sooner because students need to study for midterms, especially in science where they have more than one,” said Lexi Pace, former  SSMU LIFC coordinator. “[Extended Hours] were not something that the university decided to do; it was something students asked for.”

Increasing library access was the basis of the LIFC’s campaign to obtain renewal, which occurs every five years. Students generate half of the fund, and their contribution is matched by alumni. Every year, approximately $500,000 is raised and allocated among student employment in the libraries, facility improvements, and extended hours, based on student feedback.

“By and large, most students wanted to see the libraries kept open for longer,” said Joshua Abaki, SSMU’s Vice-President University Affairs and  the chair of the LIFC. “When I was campaigning, of course, I made that one of my priorities, and it was one of the things that I pushed for sitting in the LIFC.”

Round-the-clock study space has been one of the LIFC’s projects since it was created in 1996. Pace explained that the level of funding has decreased over the years since it is, after all, a fee paid by students, but due to their petitition, funding has now been re-extended.

“The rationale is that students need a safe place on campus where they can study when other buildings close,” she said.

That change will not necessarily be permanent, though. Instead, this year will serve as a trial to obtain data to use in the future.          “We are going to evaluate the usage of the hours, but what we want to see in the committee is McGill taking responsibility for the extended hours,” Abaki said. “We shouldn’t be using the money from the LIFC to fund a huge portion of the extended hours.”

Abaki made it clear that the additional $80,000 SSMU is allocating this year will not be an annual contribution. The goal, he said, is to demonstrate that there is an actual need for extended hours.

“Once we demonstrate the need, the argument is that the university and the libraries will make that a priority and they’ll take care of that particular cost,” he said.

Diane Koen, director of libraries, said she was happy with the LIFC’s decision.

“We’re thrilled that they committed to providing that service,” she said. However, Koen further explained that the committee’s intention to have the administration assume future costs will not be easy to achieve.

“We’re going to have to work very carefully when we prepare our budget for the academic year 2011-2012 to see how that level of opening can be supported, and it’s going to be hard, I can tell you,” she said.

McGill Libraries periodically meets with SSMU to determine how LIFC money should be spent. “Whenever possible, we try to accommodate what they want,” Koen said.

In addition to the early 24-hour access to McLennan, the Schulich Library will remain open until 3 a.m. beginning the third week of the semester. Starting October 9, the Nahum Gelber Law Library will open two hours earlier on weekends and remain open until 2 a.m.

“They’re just phenomenal in their contribution,” Koen said, referring to SSMU. “SSMU money is going towards renovations in almost every branch.”

Pace said that in the past, the LIFC has maintained that extended hours need to be part of the administration’s budget, but she also recognizes that the university’s funds are limited and that the Provost designs the budget. Further funding decisions will be made once data from this year is analyzed.

“Everyone wants the libraries open more,” she said. “Everyone agrees this is a good thing, but like everything else, it costs money.”