Linda NguyenStaff Writer
Following a push from Student Government, the university administration has approved a proposal that will extend library hours.
The hours have not been finalized, but the library is expected to be open 24 hours on some days, said Provost Hobson Wildenthal.
Since the beginning of her term, SG Vice President Nancy Fairbank has been working with Ellen Safley, dean of McDermott Library, and Wildenthal to extend library hours.
“We have just heard a lot of feedback from students, not just last year, but with the last several student governments,” Fairbank said.
Wildenthal said the team is moving forward with their plan to have a 24-hour schedule during the week and longer hours on weekends and most university holidays.
This is an issue student government has had on its radar based on student input.
Fairbank said the library conducted a poll of 415 students for their thoughts on library hours, and SG also conducted its own, smaller study consisting of 20 students. She said it was evident students wanted the library to be open longer in both studies.
“The vast majority of students surveyed want a 24-7 or 24-5 library,” Fairbank said. “There is a significant portion of students who want earlier or later hours on weekends.”
Wildenthal said Safley has been given the authority to increase her budget and to hire new staff members. The library will begin its extended hours after hiring is completed and the library staff works out what the exact schedule, safety and other similar issues.
The library will be open as much as, if not more than, other universities in Texas, but he does not know at this time what areas of the library will be open or how functional the library will be during these extended hours.
Fairbank said some staff members are concerned with safety and security during the extended library hours. The escort system is and will be available to students, but they hope to add regular police patrols at regular intervals during the extended hours, she said.
The idea of a Comet Card reader that would only allow students into the library if they swipe their card has been brought up, but Wildenthal said when the library transitions to its extended hours, this will not be in place.
Ultimately, there are two issues regarding services to students: one is being a 365-day-a-year university and the other is being a 24-hour university, said Wildenthal.
He said he hopes the university will continue to extend student services such as keeping dining halls and the student union open on most university holidays.
“The bigger issue is the life of the university on holidays,” Wildenthal said. “We have a community of 5,000 to 6,000 people living on campus. They don’t just disappear (on holidays).”
His goal is to offer more to students in terms of student life and what is open on weekends and no-school days.
“If the public psychology resonates with a 24-hour opening, it’s not that hard,” Wildenthal said. “Whether it’s maximally cost effective is the wrong question. People want it, they’ll be happy when they get it. Part of it is personal because I want the library to be open Sunday morning and Saturday night, and I really want it to be open on the (days the university is closed).”
Safley is still consulting Human Resources and UTDPD about different factors that go into extending library areas. She sent a preliminary report and budget to the provost on Aug. 27, she said in an email to The Mercury.
“It is hoped that the extended hours could begin during the fall semester if the budget is approved etc.,” she said. “I do not expect delays.”