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Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 57

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Library's hours are under consideration

24-hour proposal raises security concerns; SA Senate may call for extended hours

By Craig Stewart
Daily Cougar Staff 

A Students' Association proposal to keep the first floor of the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library open 24 hours a day may end in a compromise.

Law Center SA Sen. Fini Thomas authored legislation calling for the library's first floor to be open at all hours. Thomas said keeping part of the library open would "create a sense of community on campus," make the University more student-oriented and bring UH in line with schools whose libraries are open all the time, like the University of Texas and Rice University.

However, Speaker of the Senate Justin Ray said Tuesday the high costs associated with keeping the building open all night would probably require an increased student fee. Ray said the SA would likely pursue extended library hours rather than a 24-hour schedule.

Many students said they supported the idea of having the building open around the clock, but they also expressed concerns with safety, particularly in light of this summer's attack in Settegast Hall and last week's shooting on campus.

"I think it's a pretty good idea, but securitywise, I'm not sure how they can guarantee safety -- especially of female students walking to their cars late at night," Josh Jacob, a former resident adviser, said.

Thomas said student volunteers who would be available to walk people to their cars or rooms from the library might be a way to address security concerns. "At the University of Texas, there was a desk where there was always a volunteer to do this for any student who wished it," he said.

Linda Thompson, UH Libraries' assistant dean for Bibliographic and Access Services, said the library was attempting to assess the need for extended hours.

"Over the past month, we have been re-setting the entrance counters for the last two hours we are open to see if there are many people coming in late at night, and to analyze the necessity of staying open later," Thompson said.

Thompson said the library was also looking at another option.

"With the current design of our library, it would be very difficult to contain students to one area, but we are looking at expanding the library in the coming years, and one of the things we are looking at is ... having an area open all night for students to study," she said.

Sarah Loman, an assistant librarian at Rice, said the school started keeping its Fondren Library open 24 hours a day in the Fall 1996 semester.

"To be honest, at first we weren't sure if (24-hour operation was) even going to be used," she said. "We were surprised to find that many students were using it, especially around finals time."

Loman said security has not been an issue at the Rice library.

"We haven't had any incidents in the three years we have had the library open (all night)," she said.

She said Rice installed buttons throughout the library that would call the police immediately when pressed, and police use golf carts to drive students to their cars or rooms at night.

Ray said the SA's bill remains in committee discussions and will probably be released for a vote by the end of the semester.
 

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