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Thompson hours extended: $50K price tag

Kayla Byler / Lantern photographer

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With an impending state budget release causing nail biting in departments across Ohio State’s campus, the Undergraduate Student Government negotiated a trial run of extended hours at William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library for Spring Quarter.

Under the agreement, Thompson will close at 2 a.m. instead of midnight Sunday to Thursday during Spring Quarter.

On Dec. 1, USG unanimously passed Resolution 43-R-46, declaring official support for the effort to extend Thompson’s closing time.

USG President Micah Kamrass said the extended hours would come with a price tag of about $150,000 per school year, or $50,000 per quarter. The change would not affect Summer Quarter.

Carol Diedrichs, director of university libraries, said the Office of Academic Affairs has provided the estimated amount, and it will cover any money needed beyond the estimate.

USG Sen. Niraj Antani, a second-year in political science and philosophy representing the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, introduced the resolution to the USG Senate and conducted a study on Thompson library’s patronage during late-night hours.

His findings showed that during finals week Autumn Quarter, student usage of Thompson increased significantly, but dropped off after midnight, the regular closing time. Thompson holds extended hours during finals week, staying open until 2 a.m.

“Even though we worked with USG over finals during December to try to publicize better, and improve usage during that period, we really didn’t see a significant change,” said Nancy O’Hanlon, interim assistant director for Collections, Instruction and Public Service for OSU libraries.

University administrators saw contrasting results. Executive Vice President and Provost Joe Alutto said in an e-mail that university-collected data shows that hours offered are adequate. He also said because of the student leaders’ passionate case, the university agreed to examine alternatives, calling the Spring Quarter hours extension an “experiment.”

Alutto was traveling and unable to comment further.

“Right now, since we’re not open, we can only speculate based on data we have,” Diedrichs said. “This will give us a wonderful chance over the course of a full quarter to see how the building is used.”

The Science and Engineering Library is the only campus library open 24 hours a day. Critics of the proposal have said students already have a late-night library for study.

Kamrass, a fourth-year in political science and economics, rejected this logic, and said students studying also need access to library materials, as well as Thompson’s computers.

“People come to the library to study; people also come to the library for books,” Kamrass said. “We have lots of students who can’t afford laptops, and studying at the library is the only way they can get something done on the computer.”

Aaron Clapper, a first-year in public affairs and political science, said she welcomes the change and hopes to see it made permanent.

“It’s going to help a lot of students out,” Clapper said. “SEL gets pretty crowded at night.”

OSU libraries performed a study in 2010 that looked into making Thompson a 24-hour building. Diedrichs said the cost to operate Thompson on a 24-hour basis was not effective. She also said there were upcoming plans to upgrade the SEL with carpet and furniture.

O’Hanlon said for a long time, students at Thompson in the late-night hours have been accessing mainly online resources, something that could be done from the library or off-site.

For Kristin Raterman, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science, the extended hours aren’t worth the expenditure.

“I really only come to the Thompson to meet with groups, so I don’t come at odd hours,” Raterman said. “I think that’s a lot of money.”

With the state budget not yet released, the future of the endeavor is largely unknown.

“Our objection was not around whether it was a good idea to be open until 2, it was really about the difficulties of the financial circumstances,” Diedrichs said.

Larry Allen, communications coordinator for OSU Libraries, said the university is looking at the feasibility of long-term funding.

“We don’t want to try to introduce hours that we would have to cut back later if the funding is not there,” Allen said.

Kamrass said the university will factor in student attendance to decide whether to continue the extension.

“We think that as long as there are students in there, working from 12-2 on those days, they’re gonna continue to fund it,” Kamrass said. “We think that it will be a wise investment on their part.”

A dinner with university administrators and student leaders, where Kamrass brought up the need for extended hours, led to the Office of Academic Affairs agreeing to fund a trial run of the proposal.

“We want every student to know that they have the option to use the library until 2 a.m. Spring Quarter,” Kamrass said. “I trust that students will use it and will appreciate it.”

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