By Sydney Stalnecker
Many Youngstown State University students rely on the library for a quiet place to study and for its resources. The William F. Maag Jr. Library left its reduced hours unchanged as the university shifted back to traditional in-person classes this fall.
The library closes at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is closed Sunday. Before the shutdown in March 2020, the library was open until 10 p.m. during the week and open on Sundays.
Christine Adams, co-director and head of research and academic support at Maag Library, said it’s currently not possible for YSU’s library to stay open later. A decrease in student traffic and a lack of staff caused the reduced hours.
“We count people in the library everyday, three times a day,” Adams said. “We keep track of when there is a need and when there isn’t a need.”
The gray gates preceding the circulation desk count the total number of people who enter and exit the library. The staff also counts the number of people on different floors of the building on weekdays at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. every weekday.
According to the statistics posted on Maag Library’s website, the number of people entering and exiting the library via those gates dropped from 488,415 in the 2018-2019 academic year to 367,208 in the 2019-2020 academic year. This resulted in a decrease of 121,207 people. The building was closed from March 18 to Aug. 2, 2020 due to the pandemic.
During the last in-person fall semester, which occurred in fall 2019, the library recorded “an average of 103 patrons in the library during the 10 a.m. building counts, 84 patrons during the 2 p.m. counts and 62 patrons during the 7 p.m. counts.”
The amount of people in the building at 7 p.m. fluctuates, but Adams said most students spend time at the library during the day.
“In the evenings here, some nights we have traffic, some nights we don’t. Students do always ask for extended hours — they’ve always asked us — but students tend to mostly come during the day,” Adams said.
The statistics covering the number of patrons total and per floor for the 2020-2021 academic year are not currently accessible. The statistics are usually posted at the end of the year.
“I didn’t do an average for last year because it was just so out of the norm,” Adams said.
The number of people visiting the library is not the only influencing factor on the library’s hours. The amount of staff impacts the hours, too.
The library has seen a total of five retirees in the last two years, and one person has resigned. Adams said the library’s staff has struggled to cover shifts and find new people.
“We had two people retire from circulation this year, and we were already kind of pushing it,” Adams said. “We only had three people and just logistically, those three people could not cover seven days a week.”
By the end of October, another librarian will retire. Adams said the remaining librarians are expected to work more weekend and evening shifts to fill the leaving librarian’s place. Finding new people takes time, but the library is seeking people to hire.
“It takes awhile to do a search committee, then you have to rewrite a position,” Adams said. “It’s time consuming to get somebody on board. In all universities it’s kind of like that.”
According to the 2021 operating budget for YSU, the money budgeted for classified full time employees has decreased by 26% since 2020. The YSU Fiscal 2020 Budget included $539,655 for the salaries of full-time employees, and in 2021 it has decreased to $398,920.
The decision to change the library’s hours is not made solely by the librarians. Ana Torres, co-director of the library, and Adams work with Provost Brien Smith, who ultimately approves the hour changes.
“We go through the provost for everything,” Adams said. “Before we reduced those hours, we have to OK that with the provost.”
Libraries at nearby schools, such as Westminster College and Kent State University, are currently open much later.
WC’s library closes at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. Friday and 12 a.m. Saturday. KSU’s library closes at 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 p.m. Sunday.
The hours for each school’s library are posted on their respective websites.
After looking at the hours posted by the libraries at these schools, Willow Miller, a sophomore civil and construction engineering technology major who commutes to YSU, said Maag Library should be mindful of students who have night classes.
“It should be open a little bit longer because there are some students who have late classes,” Miller said. “It’d be nice if it was open late so you can actually sit down in a quiet place, do your homework and not get distracted by anything.”
Many students’ assignments are due at midnight. With the reduced hours, there is a five-hour gap between when the library closes and when many assignments are due. This could leave students without the proper technology to complete their assignments.
Allee Mollica, a sophomore middle childhood education major, uses the library to complete her assignments. She lives on campus and finds the library a quiet space where she can focus.
“Personally, I get nothing done before 10 p.m.,” Mollica said. “I would love to be able to go escape in a little room and get everything done because I can’t get anything done at my apartment.”
The library is expecting a new employee to start in the circulation department soon. After training the new employee, the library plans to reinstate its regular hours the second week of December, before finals.
The library will be open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and will reopen Sundays from 1-9 p.m.
During finals week, Adams said Maag Library plans to stay open until midnight Sunday through Wednesday.