After Bwog published a few joke posts about stacks sex, people being kicked out of the stacks, and stacks boner killers, Deputy Editor Youngweon did some actual investigation about why the stacks close at 11pm. She interviewed Francie Mrkich, Director of Access Services at Butler Library, and here are all the answers.
Many students want the stacks to stay open later; the library administration hears us, and they are working on it. The salutary neglect after 11 pm ended around last spring because that’s when the library hired a new overnight staffer, who is the lovely man in charge of patrolling the stacks and kicking everyone out. He is also the only full-time staff member (other than the security guard) working the misery-stricken night hours in Butler.
That leads to the reason that the stacks close at 11 pm; the main concern is student safety, Ms. Mrkich said. She noted that Butler is a big building, and the stacks are large and can be isolated, especially at night. As there are only the security guard and the one staff member working at night, the administration does not want to take risks regarding student safety, even though there has been no particular incident. As for the 6th floor, which also closes at 11 pm, an additional concern is that the research reading rooms on the floor hold some very rare and expensive books. Given Butler’s current staffing situation, the administration prefers to have those materials in a controlled environment overnight; that’s why parts of the floor remain closed after 11 pm even during reading weeks and finals, when some rooms on the floor have extended late-night hours.
The simple solution seems to be to hire more overnight staff (Columbia does have a $10 billion endowment, after all), and the library is working on it. According to Ms. Mrkich, there is an ongoing semester-long project to assess Butler’s nighttime usage. It’s easy to know how many people simply enter the building because everyone swipes in upon entry, but since we don’t swipe out, it’s difficult to know how many people are in Butler at any given moment. They are gathering that data manually; the overnight staffer goes around the building and counts the number of people in each room at 2 am, 4 am, and 6 am every night. This data will help the administration to look more broadly at the building space overall to evaluate students’ needs and respond accordingly. They are indeed looking at whether they can have another person working overnight.
In short, the administration is aware of the students’ desire to have the stacks and some other study spaces open later at night. Their primary concern is student safety (and the security of the library’s collections as well), and they are looking at ways to address student needs without compromising precautions for safety.
Stacks via Bwog Archives