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The Case Against 24-Hour Library Access

Even though college students will inevitably pull an all-nighter doing homework every now and then, extended library access only exacerbates this trend. This could seriously affect students' wellbeing.
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Student working in library at night
Student working in library at night

In an age of overwhelming workloads for college students, round-the-clock library access can seem like a blessing. Students can hole up inside the library and hammer out readings and essays for their classes until dawn. It certainly appears to be a better alternative to working in a dorm room all night. The library provides a quiet study space for those with roommates who stay up late watching TV or entertaining guests. Students in the library are also not tempted to waste precious study hours on sleep like they would if they were in their comfy bedrooms. Furthermore, they won't be alone. You can walk through any college's primary library at a late hour and expect to see at least a dozen or so students still up doing homework - or, more likely, goofing off on the internet. Seeing other hardworking students stay up late doing homework can provide motivation, and even solace, for those bracing an all-nighter.

As a college freshman, I am certainly guilty of pulling my fair share of all-nighters. It is easy to put off work when there are so many distractions in our college lives: hanging out with friends, club meetings, seemingly infinite television and music options on the Internet, or simply relaxing. I feel safe to say that these are the reasons most students write entire essays the night before they're due. Though I always finish my papers on time, I never produce an A-essay the night before it's due. While all-nighters seem like a better alternative to turning in an assignment late, these marathon study sessions can negatively affect a student's health and academic success. I always feel miserable and sluggish the day after an all-nighter, to the point where I cannot concentrate in class or do homework. And all the caffeine I consume to get back to normal functioning levels certainly can't be good for my health either.


"Though I always finish my papers on time, I never produce an A-essay the night before it's due."

24/7 library access seems to foster this kind of unhealthy behavior among college students. Libraries open all night inadvertently encourage students to prioritize work over their health and a proper sleep schedule. Conversely, they discourage students from creating a structured work schedule. Now that students don't have a set period of time between classes and the time at which they should go to bed (or when the library closes), there is nothing pressuring students to finish their homework in a prompt manner. Students can stay up until dawn in the library utilizing the free Wi-Fi and quiet study spaces.

At Washington University in St. Louis, where I recently began the second semester of my freshman year, administrators have certainly fostered this unhealthy trend. Before the 2012-13 school year, administrators yielded to requests from the student body to extend the hours of the Olin Library: the campus' central library. Prior to then, Olin Library closed at 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. on Fridays, 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 4 a.m. during reading and exam weeks. Students expressed their wish for extended library hours, arguing that the rigor and prestige of this university called for 24/7-hour access. After demands from undergraduate and graduate students, administrators decided to keep Olin Library open from 10 a.m. on Sunday to 2 a.m. Friday while maintaining the initial weekend hours. Administrators also decided to keep Olin Library open 24/7 during reading and exam weeks.

In this case, Washington University in St. Louis prioritized their reputation as an elite university over promoting healthy behavior among undergraduate and graduate students. What is even more concerning is the fact that students demanded this adjustment, supporting the misguided notion that sleep deprivation leads to academic success. Luckily, administrators did not completely give in to student demands and extend Olin's hours to 24/7 access.


"24/7 library access seems to foster this kind of unhealthy behavior among college students. Libraries open all night inadvertently encourage students to prioritize work over their health and a proper sleep schedule."

Now, students do not feel pressured to complete their homework between the end of classes and closing time at the library, and thus will not feel compelled to complete their work at a reasonable hour. Even though college students will inevitably pull an all-nighter doing homework every now and then, extended library access only exacerbates this trend. This could seriously affect students' wellbeing. Without a proper night's sleep, students can jeopardize their mental health and academic careers. And the more students fall for this trend, the stronger this habit becomes. Although administrators rightfully kept the original weekend hours, encouraging students to spend their weekends relaxing, socializing, or at the very least catching up on sleep, they should have done the same for weekdays. Denying the demands of the student body seems harsh, but it would have shown that administrators care about the students' well-being, and that we should focus on it too.