Library concludes feasibility study, plans to expand 24-hour study lounge

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In early 2017, the M.D. Anderson Library conducted a feasibility study to determine the demand for and feasibility of a 24-hour library. Since then, the library’s hours of operation have been modified to open at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday instead of the previous 7 a.m. However, 24-hour access has not been established.

The University of Houston remains the only Tier One university in Texas that doesn’t offer 24-hour library access.

“We do know that students want 24/7 access, and we’ve been trying to figure out different ways to do that,” Head of Information and Access Services Lee Hilyer said. “Because of the way the building was built over time, we don’t have really good ways to ensure 24-hour use is limited to a certain area where security can be present and the safety of the students can be assured.”

Feasibility study

The feasibility study was done to determine if students would utilize 24-hour library access, how many students would use this space and whether this expansion would be possible for the entire library, Hilyer said.

“What they do is engage with an architectural firm that does what’s called ‘programming’,” Hilyer said. “We met with them, we did some focus groups, and then what they produce is a document of what potential plans could be.”

The study concluded that students do want 24-hour library access, but the library’s build makes it challenging to designate an entire floor for this access, Hilyer said.

The staff is concerned about students having the entire library or certain portions open for 24-hour access. The first floor has numerous access points, which makes it harder to close off, Hilyer said.

Although the library itself lacks 24-hour access, the study lounge within the library is open 24 hours. The lounge was constructed in 2005, when the University had 35,000 students enrolled. The space was deemed adequate, since 85% of UH students commute.

Thirteen years later, UH’s student population has ballooned to 46,000 and the library is seeking to find the best solution to the increased demand for a 24-hour library space, Hilyer said.

“The original intent was to have the whole first floor as a 24-hour space and to relocate all of the computers on both sides of the atrium,” Hilyer said. “Unfortunately, the price tag that came back was almost 10 million to complete all of these.”

In addition to the actual construction price, the library would have to spend more to secure the building to limit usage of the library to the first floor, Hilyer said. Although students want 24-hour access, it cannot happen without extensive fundraising and donations to account for these costs, he said.

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