Student Government: SG considers keeping Library, MSC open late during finals

Students pulling an all-nighter before exams may have a place to study other than residence halls or friends’ apartments. During finals week this year, the USF Tampa Library and the Marshall Student Center might keep their doors open later than usual.

Student Government and  University and Library administrators are working to keep the Library open up to 24 hours a day, five days a week during finals week, said SG Coordinator of Academic and University Affairs (AUA) sophomore Andrew Cohen.

Cohen plans to meet with Provost Ralph Wilcox and Marshall Student Center director Joe Synovec today to discuss keeping the Marshall Student Center open 24 hours a day as well.

Before pushing for the Library to stay open all week, SG intends to find out how many students will take advantage of it.

“We want to see how much of the Library students are utilizing before we go 24/7,” said SG Director of AUA Maja Lacevic. “It’s going to be more like 24/5.”

Library records show that more than 1.5 million students went in and out of the Library during the 2007-2008 school year. A total of 3,720 students used the library between midnight and 4 a.m. during finals week — Dec. 9 to Dec. 13 — according to Library door-count numbers from finals week last fall.

The highest turnout of students was on Sunday, Dec. 9, when 938 students gathered at the Library to get a late-night Starbucks fix and study for the upcoming week’s tests.

The lowest turnout occurred Thursday, Dec. 13, when 325 students studied at the Library between midnight and 4 a.m.

Though those numbers might seem high, USF Tampa has about 39,000 students. That means that the Library is servicing about 2 percent of USF students during late-night hours on its busiest day, and that is something that troubles USF Library Associate Director of Access and Media Services Merilyn S. Burke, who questioned the efficiency of round-the-clock service.

Burke said she believes that students could easily study at home, since the residence halls have wireless Internet access and most students have laptops.

“We can’t remain open 24 hours a day during finals week — we don’t have the staff to do so — but we can stay open from 7 a.m. until 3 or 4 a.m., like we always have,” Burke said. “Being open 24/5 means that I would have to have a second shift of people to train and hire, and we don’t have the money for that.”

Burke said the Library asked SG for funds to do so, but the organization declined the request.

The total cost to keep the Library open was unavailable at press time.

Burke said that keeping the Library open so late might be what students want, but isn’t what they need.

“You don’t perform well on a test if you don’t sleep, and that is a fact. If you stay up studying until 4 a.m. and wake up three hours later, that is the equivalent of going to take the test drunk. That is why hospital residents are being told to work 80 hours a week, not 120.”

The National Sleep Foundation reports that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, but according to a study by Michigan University, most college students get six to seven.

The study suggests that memory skills may be relatively unimpaired after an all-night study session, but losing a night’s sleep can decrease processing and analyzing skills.

It also advises that if a student has to pull an all-nighter, he or she should go to bed early the next night rather than nap during the day.

Some students, such as sophomore Sarah Rutherford, said they don’t have a choice when it comes to studying late at night.

Rutherford, an athletic training major, said she has classes during the day and lacrosse practice until 8 p.m., so she usually has to stay up late to study for a test.

Rutherford said she prefers to study in the Marshall Student Center, however.

“The Library is an environment where you get stressed out with so many people there, while the Marshall Center is more relaxing,” she said. “There are more windows too — in the Library there are none. There is more light coming in from outside, and that makes it more refreshing to study there than in the Library.”

Lacevic and Cohen said they are working on making the Marshall Student Center “a learning center” during finals week.

“The first floor would be open to students who just want to hang out, the second floor would be for tutorials, and the third and forth floor would be a quiet area for studying,” Lacevic said.

This initiative is part of a push by SG to make the Marshall Student Center the go-to place for finals week, she said.

Burke said she would love to see that happen, since it would take strain off the Library as well.

Finals week runs from Dec. 8 to Dec. 12.