Staff Ed: Library policy unreasonable

Akshay Agrawal

Restrictions on library access leave students out in cold.

At most schools around the U.S., administrators have a hard time getting their students into the library. At our school, we seem to have another problem. They want to keep us out.
The recent decision to close the library to students with unscheduled periods on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays is one that has led to a great deal of frustration. These days, it's very easy to overhear one or more students complaining about not being able to stay in the library during their unscheduled periods. What's the point of having a nice, renovated library if students aren't able to make full use of it?
However, it's important to first examine the reasons for implementing this new policy. It's hard to dispute that students make a lot of noise in the library, from 7:15 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. And, many of these students come to the library to socialize rather than finish work. As a result, our librarians are forced to spend an immeasurable amount of time each day telling students not to eat, keeping the noise down, and kicking out those who just don't listen. Contrary to popular belief, the main job of the librarians is not to police the student body. Their real job is to offer their expertise in library research techniques to classes who come to the library to work on projects. Instead of doing that, however, librarians are forced to spend time on controlling students. This policy is simply a response to this long-standing problem.
Even so, this only explains why the policy was implemented. Unfortunately, it doesn't completely justify it. Let's face the facts: this new policy essentially kicks students out of the best place to study on campus. The whole point of a well-funded library like ours is to attract students to spend time inside. Teenagers will always want to socialize, so isn't it better that they hang out in a safe and constructive place like the library as opposed to the back of the nearest convenience store? A library is not supposed to be kept empty. And let's be clear: the cafeteria is nowhere as good a place to spend time as is the library. Minus the hard tables and strange odor, it's not much better than the shipping containers on the upper field.
But why was there such a need to drastically cut down on the number of students in the library to begin with? The answer is that this year, a much larger number of students were given free periods. These students don't just vanish when they don't have class; they have to spend time somewhere. The best place to work and talk with other students is the library. It's ironic that the authority that gave students so many free periods is the same authority that denies those same students a place to spend time during those very free periods. How's that for farsighted policy?
The librarians themselves have said that they understand that students are frustrated, and that they're open to suggestions. Here's one: why not create another place on campus where students have both computer access and a place to work? If administration intends for the library to be devoted to "instructional" purposes, that's fine. Then, there must be another spot on campus that is devoted purely to study purposes. However, the one thing that absolutely cannot be done is to restrict students from the best study place on campus, without providing another option.