Let us Study: Students Lead Petition Campaign to Extend Library Hours

Members of Hendrix’s Student Senate took to the Burrow February 1st-3rd collecting student signatures for a petition to the Provost, Dr. Terri Bonebright, concerning the recent drawback in the Bailey Library’s evening weekday hours.

The library used to be open until 12AM Monday through Thursday, but now is only open until 11 PM. The hours drawback is due to a shortage of staff in the library, with the number of librarians reduced from 4 to 1 over the past year. It is the perceived slow response of the Academic Policy Committee, a committee of faculty members responsible for handling academic matters affecting Hendrix, which spurred student action on this issue.

Giorgy Sarishvili is the Academic Policy Representative for Senate, serving as the student voice at Academic Policy meetings. Sarishvili has been working on this issue behind the scenes ever since the library hours reduction went into effect.

“AP understood where I was coming from [in terms of student concern] but there really was not much progress until Fall,” Sarishvili said. “Even then it was mostly just ‘we’re aware of this issue and we’re working on it’ but.. there was not more than that.”

Sarah Moore helped lead the way on the student response to this slow going process as Senior Senator. She says the petition campaign was about addressing student study needs on campus.

“Within the context of the college, we already had study spaces get reduced, last year Mills got reduced,” Moore said. “Not all spaces are open to all students: some have access to DW, some had access to Mills, but there’s not a place where the mass student body has access in the way that the main part of Bailey Library is open to students. To me, the library is really a matter of access to study space that got taken away.”

Sarishvili notes that there is a symbolic element to the petition campaign’s argument as well.

“[I have] heard students say they need it open based on principle, that we are a rigorous academic institution, it should be open regardless whether or not anyone uses it or not,” Sarishvili said.

Moore says the petition to the Provost received 480 signatures from students wishing to return to the old hours so they could once again use the library until midnight. She says students left their comments as well as their signature, with some student-athletes saying that the library hours change impacted their study time after evening practices.

Another common thread from students, and a point that Moore stressed, was that this action was not directed at the Bailey staff or student-workers.

“At no point in this campaign has Student Senate blamed the library for the hours,” Moore said. “[This was] more a bigger issue of the hiring process, the funding, and academic committee taking way too long to act on missing staff.”

Since the petition drive, Hendrix has hired a new librarian.

“We just recently got a new librarian, but up until then… if there was progress being made, I was not as aware of it as the administration was,” Sarishvili said. “AP runs on faculty time, not student time, so I understand from the outside it looks like to all the students that the entire year was just sitting on our hands, but I feel that now we are at a kind of turning point where something can be done about it.”

On Monday, February 13th, the Executive members of Student Senate sent the signatures to Dr. Bonebright along with a letter outlining student concerns with the hours drawback and expressing a desire to return to the old midnight closing time. Sarishvili discussed this issue with the Academic Policy Committee last week, and noted that the large number of students who signed the petition surprised the members.

Dean of Students Jim Wiltgen informed Student Senate’s Executive team on Monday, the 20th,  that the Provost has indicated there will be a plan announced in the coming weeks to address the library hours issue. If the hours are extended back to 12 AM, Sarishvili says that the students would have to make sure the library is actually being used during that late-night slot.

“I’ve heard both sides of the argument. I’ve heard students who don’t want the library hours extended, I’ve heard from many more that do,” Sarishvili said. “The real concern for me now is, whether students will actually back up what they want and will use the library and kind of walk the walk now that they’ve talked the talk.”

The next step for both students and the administration is unclear at this point, but this issue is certain to remain a focus of the next Student Senate and its AP Representative as students continue to express their concern over this issue.

UPDATE: On February 27th, Bailey Library Director Britt Anne Murphy announced that library hours were now extended Sunday-Thursday in the form of a study hall period (first floor only, no library services) from 11 PM to 1 AM. Additionally, it was announced that the library’s Saturday hours were extended as a study hall period from 12 PM to 5 PM.

Photo Credit: Leah Hadley

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