The 24-Hour Library Referendum: Should You Vote Yes Or No?


This Friday a referendum will take place in which students will decide whether Hartley Library should be open 24/7 during term time for the whole year. So should you vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’?


For those of you blissfully unaware of our current political surroundings, the Union Council recently proposed a motion to encourage students to weigh in on the idea of making our much loved Hartley library into a 24-hour operation.Despite the added £84,000 it will supposedly cost the university to manage and staff, it is hard to ignore the many added benefits that a 24 hour library will bring.

Firstly, if the proposed were to go forward, the University of Southampton would be joining a whole host of other universities that already provide their students with the opportunity to work night hours. Previously, not providing that offering sets Southampton University aside from the rest – but not in a positive light.

An argument for the ‘against’ has previously stated that a 24 hour library would promote or encourage ‘unhealthy working hours’, which is far from the truth. A large proportion of students have branded themselves to be people who work far better at night than during the day, which is something that would occur regardless of whether the library were to stay open or not. What it would in fact do is provide a safer and ‘easier-to-concentrate-in’ workspace for those students who find their work flow to be far more apparent during the night. Additionally, it would provide a haven for those who find themselves surrounded by housemates or flatmates who end up out clubbing or hosting socials weekly. To be able to pack up their stuff and resort to a quiet workspace is a comforting feeling to those stressing about being unable to focus, or resisting temptation for distractions within their own homes.

A similar argument is the fact that though most university halls and houses come fully equipped with desks, they may not be suitable enough for a student’s requirements. It is no secret that with the majority of student housing, furniture is often old and prone to breakage, like many of the student houses in Portswood. For some students a tidy, comfortable workspace is essential to ensuring their work gets done. Without a designated area to study, or sit while working, students are far more likely to avoid working at home. As much as the library is available during the day, it can be said that there are certain peak times where most students are free due to timetabling, which in turn results in a limited library space. As a result, a 24 hour library would open up a whole host of periods in which the library would be less crowded and students can ensure they’ll get a decent workspace.

Additionally, there is the issue of students whose course requires them to complete a placement module, meaning they could be spending their weeks working on a 9-5 basis, or potentially finishing even later. The concept of a 24 hour library would mean there is no limit for placement students who are at a disadvantage by working all hours during the day, and gives them the added flexibility they desire.

The idea of the library being open 24 hours does not necessarily mean it has to be used during those hours by all students; it simply offers alternative working hours for those students who find it difficult to concentrate during the day, have a limited amount of free time due to excessive contact hours, or growing responsibilities within societies or sports teams, and simply for those who find themselves in need of an escape. It would be taking into consideration that not all students are the same, and some of us have different requirements to others in order to reach our fullest potential. Gone are the days of those conventional ‘wake up early to get your revision done’ working hours, which creates an added pressure for those students who find themselves unable to live up to these expectations.

Despite the added finance required and staffing concerns, a 24 hour library is something that is well within the University’s budget and capability. It would provide flexible working hours for placement students, an escape for those feeling overwhelmed and massively under pressure and, finally an alternative working environment to the rowdy student accommodation that comes alive in the night-time.

Words by Navi Ahluwalia.


You may have heard that a referendum is going to happen on whether Hartley Library should be open 24 hours a day permanently or just for exam period, as it is currently. The current arrangements regarding the opening hours of the library are perfectly sufficient.

The University’s main library is currently open 17 1/2 hours per day on weekdays, and 15 hours per day in term-time. This totals 117 1/2 hours per week – more than enough hours you can utilise to cram that essay into your hectic schedule of Netflix-watching and Jesters.

Certainly, the most common complaint about the library (aside from those horrible people who dump their stuff on the desks and then gallivant off to another place for six hours) is the sheer lack of space to study/check facebook/play weird games on your computer at peak times. If you think that extending the library opening hours will solve this problem, then you’re wrong. What is needed is expansion, and that isn’t happening anytime soon. So why spend £84000 in an attempt to solve the wrong problem? Surely this money would be better invested in planning an extension to Hartley library?

What isn’t well publicised is the considerable number of workstations on campus – specifically those at the Murray building, which are open 24 hours a day. According to the MySouthampton app, there are 143 available spaces that are open throughout the night, which, if you check out our previous article on the matter, shows that, over the trial period of having the 24-hour library, the total number of students entering and exiting was 51,937 over 39 days (27 April – 7 June). This works out at 1332 students per day. This may seem a lot, but you have to remember that this was during exam period, and the count system doesn’t account for repeat entries and exits. Also, in normal times, the library is open for 4 1/2 out of these twelve hours. To get a clearer picture, the article also highlighted the number of people in the library at 2am, which averaged out at roughly 200 – not too different from the 143 available study spaces anyway.

Hopefully you’re starting to see now that extending Hartley Library’s opening hours, so that it is open constantly, is a futile exercise – and that of course is not considering the extra cost (£84000, for spending on things such as staff wages and energy). On top of this, there are a whole load of welfare considerations to, er, consider.

Let’s start with the safety bus. The University expects SUSU to provide a safety bus service throughout each night of the week, not considering that the safety bus is run by a small pool of students. Is expecting them to take the mantle of working multiple night shifts during the week on top of current nighttime duties, such as a pick-up/drop-off service from the Stags?

Perhaps the biggest argument to encourage a ‘no’ vote is the impact that this will have on student welfare. I’m sure you’ve all seen the large number of students sleeping at their library desks (if you haven’t, then a quick peruse of Tell Him/Tell Her will illustrate this point for you) and I’m also sure you’ve all thought to yourselves that this particular person needs to go home and get some proper sleep. Having a 24-hour library will just simply encourage those who already spend a considerable amount of time in the library to spend an even greater amount in there, thus probably impacting negatively on their studies, social life, and physical & mental well-being. The fact that there are showers in the library (level 5, if you’re interested) means that one could literally live in Hartley if they wanted to – and the fear is that some people may do.

Words by Michael Oliver.

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Fashion Marketing student at the University of Southampton.

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