Cutting students off: A personal account of campus library limitations

The outside doors looking in to the 24 Hour Café Photo Credit: Chassidy R. Walworth 

Written by Chassidy R. Walworth 

The James W. Miller Learning Resources Center, commonly referred to as the library, used to be open until midnight and 2 a.m. during finals week. Now, I find myself huddled in the 24/Hour Café at 10 p.m. amongst many other students who had to be escorted out of the library doors due to its closure at 9 p.m.. Ever since COVID-19 hit and changed education regulations as we now know it, the library has become the only place for students to actually study other than their bedrooms. However, as an addition to the education regulations for the pandemic, the SCSU library has limited its hours and now only opens less than 50 percent of the time.  

I’ve been here for two hours and still have yet to complete one assignment. It is easy to get distracted when loud conversations are happening for hours on end. If the opportunity arises, I always attempt to sit in a booth because the seats are more comfortable than the other 15 plastic chairs scattered throughout the tight space. However, because of the café’s lack of seating, I find myself feeling guilty when students walk in the 24/hr café to study, but have no place to sit. It’s already a hassle to pull out your wallet and ID to even get into the small space, but then you’re stuck with the worrisome thought of not finding a place to study – the younger students have the most melancholy expression as their optimistic attitude meets reality in a full force slam to the face 

Currently, I am sitting on one of the plastic chairs because the booth seats were all taken. My front view is a window looking out to the hallway and doors of the library. I find this seat both entertaining and unfortunate because I can see students walking by – most attempting to open the doors to the library unknowing that they are locked. About 70% of the time (based on my memory and experiences), those very students will use their key cards to enter this space with hopes of finding a quiet place to study.

However, they quickly become aware that the seats are all taken and the room loud from conversation. I wonder why people come to this space at 10 p.m. to just talk. Many of us just want to complete our homework and get on with our lives.

But if you’re anything like me, it is nearly impossible to focus amongst chaos. Twenty minutes ago, two men stood behind me quite literally shouting about their day as if the “QUIET ZONE” sign right next to them didn’t apply. Usually, I wait around 10-20 minutes for them to quiet down and wrap up their conversations. Yet, once one group starts talking, almost every group does. So rather than waiting, I eventually got fed up and asked them to “please quiet down or take the conversation outside”. It’s hard to do this without sounding rude, passive aggressive, or a party pooper.

I find it necessary to prove the point that this is a study space – a place to study: how else must one break this concept down to get the loud talked to quiet down? Thankfully, the two men were nice and apologetic – both going to the hallway to finish up their loud discussion.  

Other than being loud and limited in size and seating, this one space we have to study is also freezing and often filthy. Seeing how students leave their space with wrappers, crumbs, and god-knows-what, it is honestly surprising that such a mess is left during a pandemic. I am waiting for the day that someone leaves a mess on the table in front of me, so I can speak my two cents on the issue. There is one student who leaves his two-liter Coca-Cola soda bottle (or a Tropicana 1.5-liter bottle) that he fills with water instead and leaves on “his desk”, along with bags of “trash” consisting of Chipotle bags or pizza boxes – he even leaves a few of his notebooks and pencils/pens to highlight the fact that this space is occupied despite his attendance. While he comes daily, his stuff never leaves and hasn’t for months.

Honestly, I am just surprised that the janitors have not left a note (or even myself) asking him to remove his belongings. This alone shows two points: how uncaring people are of community spaces and how limited these community spaces are – so limited that a person will not move his belongings as a way to guarantee a spot and desktop computer the following day. 

Additionally, this café has a single unisex bathroom that is meant for 20-some people to use in a given hour or two. Entering the bathroom, it is un-telling whether or not the lock actually works from the outside. The interior reeks, and the toilet seat is often lifted.

The café doesn’t have any controlled heating and is never warm. Who knew that in order to have a place to study, one would have to wear a bulky winter coat to withstand the uncomfortable temperatures? With cold fingers and toes, the option to order a coffee is no longer possible because COVID-19 seems to have placed a restriction on campus amenities and hours of operation. For what reason? I am unsure because the space is utilized, and the need abundant (referring to both coffee and hours of operation).

It has gotten to a point where those in charge are placing more students at risk because of the sanitary issues and overcrowding of such a small space. I wonder why this is. I am frustrated by it. There is no reason to be restricting us access to resources and spaces we need to succeed – especially since distance learning has taken over our courses turning our bedrooms into classrooms. At one point, I have even considered going to a laundromat to get my homework done. It would probably be cleaner and quieter anyways.  

You can tell when a student is frustrated by the atmosphere based on whether or not their jaws are clenched, their eyes flat, or if they keep looking over their shoulder at those committing such disturbing acts. Why this issue has not been resolved or why the library doors remain closed more than 50 percent of the time or when they will reinstate the traditional hours of operation is unknown.

Why such few people speak up to the janitor or ask for improvements is beyond me. Why students use the one and only space we have to study as an entertainment center is also unknowing. These acts make me question the very ways we people live – whether or not we are oblivious or insensitive, passive or careless, and forthcoming or rude. Why we do the things we do and come off the ways we are seen. How a 24/hour café could discern such anger, grime, and restlessness. These are questions I seek to answer followed by why our university continues to restrict our studies and allow these unwanted attributes to remain. 

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