Fuzzy blankets. Taco Bell boxes. Monster energy drinks. Study Edge packets.
These are a few of the common objects found surrounding the half-asleep or overly caffeinated UF students during the first week of late-night hours at the newly 24/7 Marston Science Library. It’ll become UF’s only after-hours library when Newell Hall ceases its late schedule April 1, said Valrie Minson, assistant dean of assessment and student engagement and chair of Marston.
Marston Library began to offer 24/7 services March 19 through a pilot study funded by Provost Joe Glover. The study, which will fund the expanded hours for the remainder of the Spring and Fall 2023 semesters, will collect data on overnight hour usage to advise future funding decisions.
While Marston’s late-night traffic cannot rival the thousands of students flooding the building during the day, hundreds of students are happily taking advantage of the expanded hours.
Minson was thrilled by the enthusiasm she has observed from students for Marston Library’s 24/7 services during the past week. A group of students camped out at the library with blankets for the first night of expanded hours, she said.
Having conducted an overwhelming number of interviews, Minson said, her staff had to race to hire and train overnight staff members in time for the launch of 24/7 operations.
“I'm happy to be the space that students come to,” Minson said. “I'm just so proud of my staff who worked really hard to make the deadline.”
The re-establishment of 24/7 libraries at UF has been a hot-button issue for students and UF Student Government since the services were revoked in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing debates between SG leaders and university administration about who should fund 24/7 libraries — SG or the university — delayed the resource’s return to campus.
Usage fluctuates throughout the overnight hours. Only roughly 370 people were in the building at 2 a.m. compared to the 1,000 there at 11 p.m. Minson said, referencing data pulled from March 23. However, when Newell cuts its hours, Minson expects late-night usage at Marston to increase.
Minson’s staff will also begin to gather data about which floors are occupied most and if study rooms — a feature Newell doesn’t have — are popular during late-night hours in April.
Besides slight issues with one of the elevators, the first week of 24/7 services at Marston has been problem-free, she said.
“If that's the extent of our troubles, then I'll take it,” she said.
To encourage students to take study breaks, Minson hopes to set up cornhole and a TV that'll play captioned series and movies somewhere in the library.
Multiple UF students, who have already made Marston Library their new midnight study spot, expressed gratitude and relief about 24/7 libraries returning to campus during the late-night hours of March 25.
Leaving Marston at 2:30 a.m., Arthur Coughlin, a 24-year-old UF natural resource conservation senior, said he enjoys the convenience of a 24/7 Marston. When he isn't in class, he spends his days working at Maude's Cafe, a coffeehouse in downtown Gainesville.
“It's really beneficial to me that the library is open so late,” he said. “I don't have a great place to study in my house, and there's not really anywhere else open 24 hours besides Krispy Kreme.”
Coughlin also prefers the quiet, spacious layout and cozy seating of Marston to the crowded, uncomfortable Newell during the overnight hours, he said.
Before coming to UF, Coughlin attended Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens, and would frequently use Florida Atlantic University’s 24/7 library. A 24/7 library resource should be standard at any well-regarded university, he said.
“I really hope the pilot study is successful because it's a godsend for me,” he said.
Sabrina Lopez, a 22-year-old UF health science senior, who walked out of Marston around 2:50 a.m. after studying for an upcoming biochemistry exam, said the library has been her go-to place to study since starting UF in 2019.
“When they announced on Instagram that they were going to do 24 hours, I was praying and hoping that they would do it before I graduated,” she said. “No hate to Newell, but I am so Marston-biased.”
Although Lopez likes studying at Newell, she said it was sometimes almost impossible to find seating in the building during the late-night hours when Marston used to close in the evening. She appreciates the spacious and peaceful environment Marston provides.
“During the day, I tend to treat myself and get a little lazy,” she said. “When the nighttime anxiety kicks in…my apartment just won't cut it.”
With classes and extracurricular activities consuming students’ schedules during the day, Lopez said she hopes Marston Library continues to offer 24/7 services past the pilot study's conclusion.
However, some sense students may be getting too comfortable.
Friends Chelsea Flint, a 19-year UF anthropology sophomore, and Rose Haile, a 21-year-old UF chemistry junior, who exited Marston around 3 a.m. with their sleeping bags and music speaker, have observed unusual behavior throughout Marston’s first week of late-night hours.
A few nights ago, Flint witnessed two students making out in the Marston Library basement.
“They weren't even in a study room,” she said. “I was like ‘It’s 2 a.m., go home.’”
Other students are walking around the building barefoot and sleeping on top of tables, Haile said.
“They really make themselves at home now,” she said. “They act like they pay rent.”
With Provost Glover stepping down from his role in July, Minson is unsure about the future of 24/7 libraries at UF. She presumes the pilot study findings will be used to decide whether Newell or Marston will continue as the 24/7 study space on campus for Spring 2024, she said.
“It's nice to have a 24/7 library,” Minson said. “While I wouldn't highly recommend students study overnight…the reality is that it happens, and the libraries are perfectly happy being a safe space for students to study.”
Contact Amanda at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandasfriedman.
Amanda Friedman is a senior journalism major and the Enterprise Editor at The Alligator. She previously wrote for the Avenue, Metro and University desks. When she isn't reporting, she loves watching coming-of-age films and listening to Ariana Grande.