After two years of student advocacy, 24-hour library services will soon return to UF's campus.
UF Student Government announced Jan. 13 Marston Science Library will once again offer 24-hour services with funding directed by the office of the provost.
While the library used to operate on a 24-hour schedule, the COVID-19 pandemic paused those hours indefinitely, leaving many students wondering whether they would return. Newell Hall has been the only 24-hour study space for students since Fall 2021.
Marston Library’s extended hours will start in March, Student Body President Lauren Lemasters wrote in an email. Provost Joe Glover has agreed to fund overnight access at the library to collect data on student usage to help inform future funding decisions, she added.
“Since the beginning of my term, I have heard students wanting 24/7 library access,” Lemasters said. “My team and I benchmarked overnight access at UF with other peer institutions and collected data from the University Libraries to share with the provost.”
Lemasters didn’t provide further information about funding issues or why it took roughly two years for 24-hour library operations to return.
It’s unclear as of Sunday evening whether university leadership is considering extending the hours of other libraries.
Angela Ornelas, a 21-year-old UF political science senior, said she was glad to see the hours return. She often does schoolwork late at night and gravitates toward the library that’s open the latest, she said.
“I'm really happy to have it open 24/7 because everybody is on a different schedule,” Ornelas said. “It's really important to accommodate for everybody's different schedules and lifestyles and responsibilities.”
Sen. Grace Shoemaker (Change-Engineering) sent her first email regarding the 24-hour library initiative in 2021, she said. Since then, she has presented statistics and information regarding the initiative several times to the Student Senate.
Although she didn’t have a direct hand in completing the project, Shoemaker’s glad it’s finally become a reality, she said.
“I thought this might be something we would see in a few years, or be a project that would at least take until next year,” Shoemaker said. “To have an announcement that it’s starting now in spring before I graduate was just insane. I seriously didn’t believe it for a moment.”
Shoemaker plans to partner with the library system to conduct research on Marston’s usage and financial efficacy, she said, so Glover can evaluate whether the initiative is sustainable for a long period of time.
“The reevaluation is where I say it’s not quite over,” Shoemaker said. “But it’s a great start.”
While Minority Party Leader Faith Corbett (Change-District C) is happy to see 24-hour library services return to UF’s campus, she’s disappointed by the lack of details included in the announcement. Gator Caucus was unwilling to collaborate with the Change Caucus on the initiative, she added.
Corbett also emphasized the student body’s integral role in advocating for the reinstatement of 24-hour libraries.
“This must have been an issue that Gator wanted to savor for themselves,” Corbett said.
Director of External Affairs Noah Fineberg is proud of the Lemasters administration’s push to make 24-hour Marston a reality, he wrote in an email.
“Anyone can shout from the rooftops that they want 24/7 libraries, but it took a dedicated group of people working diligently for a long time to get the job done,” Fineberg said.
Many UF students are looking forward to taking advantage of the change.
Jenny Munaweera, a 19-year-old UF freshman, spends more than 10 hours a day at the library, she said. While she normally studies at Newell, she said, she’s more likely to study at Marston once it’s open for 24 hours because she finds it less crowded.
“Marston feels more homey to me,” Munaweera said. “I just like it better.”
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Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the East Gainesville reporter for The Alligator. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching A24 movies, listening to Ariana Grande and reading books she found on TikTok.
Alissa Gary is a journalism freshman and university administration reporter at The Alligator. Aside from writing, she loves spending time with her cats, catching up on Jeopardy, and seeing the latest movies.