Mabee Library to be open late for students

With every kind of community there is a central place that people gather, meet and socialize at. For Washburn University, Mabee Library has played that role, evolving to meet the needs of students.

Starting in 2009, the staff at the library undertook a series of projects to give students more tools for academic success. They begin with the inclusion of items such as moving shelves which allow students to have more materials readily available and the ability to check out laptop computers to use while studying in the stacks. Next came the opening last year of The Study Grounds, a coffee shop, inside the library giving students a chance to fuel in the pursuit of knowledge.

Entering this year, Washburn Student Government Association President Taylor McGown and Vice President Michael Kitowski have been pursuing their campaign goal of making Mabee Library more available to students. During the campaign, the two advocated for keeping the facility open 24 hours to accommodate students’ busy schedules.

“We wanted to give students a safe, neutral spot where they can study,” said Kitowski. “Most students work 9 to 5, so having something that is available later was something that we wanted to give students that want to succeed in classes, which is what we are all here for.”

Due to the cost of keeping the library open 24 hours, WSGA in partnership with the library and university administration, built a compromise proposal to keep facilities available until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, starting Nov. 13. With WSGA putting in $1,000 in funding and other partners dipping into their coffers to make up the rest of the projected cost, the plan has been funded as an initial trial run through the rest of the 2011-12 academic year.

“With students working and many living off campus, we want students to be able to come to campus for more than just an hour and be able to get stuff done,” said McGown. “We talked to [Alan Bearman, dean of libraries] and he thought it was a great idea, so we then worked with several organizations across campus to make this possible.”

Specifically, the library, which has a variety of resources during current normal operating hours available to students, will offer two students at the circulation desk initially to assist students in finding materials and checking books in their late night study sessions.

“Right now the library has been working hard to hire and train students who can work those hours,” said McGown. “We want to make sure that students have the help they need going in on those nights.”

As for other services, WSGA and the library staff will be watching carefully to see what it is students are asking for as the process plays out.

“Right now we want to focus on student feedback,” said Kitowski. “We want to see what it is that students are using and what they want late at night.”

Currently the coffee shop will remain at its normal operating hours but the idea of keeping open the service is something that WSGA is open to talking about with Chartwells, the food service provider for the university, about.

“If there are enough students that want to see The Study Grounds staying open late then I am sure that Chartwells would be interested,” said McGown. “If there is money to be made then I think they would definitely be interested in seeing what they can do to provide that for students.”

For students that are worried about staying on campus late, McGown and Kitowski expressed the fact that safety is one of the main subjects they addressed in the formation process for the new hours. A Washburn police officer will be on duty and in the building during the extended hours, providing safety and checking to make sure that those staying in the stacks late night are supposed to be there.

“There will be plenty of close parking available late night,” said McGown. “And if students feel worried about their safety, they can always call the Washburn police to give them an escort around campus, so it should be a positive and safe experience for everyone that wants to take advantage of the library.”

In addition to the on duty security officer, in the spring semester there will be a system installed that is similar to what students encounter in the Living Learning Center with card readers that will grant access to people with valid student ID’s.

Moving forward on the project, McGown and Kitowski look forward to getting involved with making sure that students continue to receive the needed resources that will allow them to succeed at Washburn.

“We want students to know that we want to know what they want because that is the only way we can give them what will help them the most,” said McGown.