Ben Knight, the MSA’s Education (Academic Affairs) Officer and current undergraduate student representative on the University’s Academic Board provides an update on a recent success in the 24 Hour Libraries at Monash campaign.
As the MSA’s Education (Academic Affairs) Officer, I initiated one of the MSA’s key education campaigns for 2013 – to lobby the university to increase the opening hours of the Matheson Library to 24 hours over the busy SWOTVAC and university examination period. The campaign has been one of the most prominent and engaging campaigns the MSA has run in recent history, garnering more than 2,500 survey responses (almost 1 in every 10 students studying at Monash’s Clayton campus) which asked students to detail their study habits and usage of study spaces on campus. By the completion of the survey, the result was clear – increased library hours were desperately sought after by the student body, with many responses indicating that hectic work schedules, inferior study spaces at home and inadequate access to the Internet and study resources made access to on-campus study spaces vital to the quality and accessibility of their education.
Despite the clear empirical evidence that 24 hour study spaces on campus are needed, the University took several months to be convinced that students legitimately needed access to such spaces. When meeting with University representatives in person to discuss the results of the survey, it was clear that while concept of an ‘all-nighter’ was acknowledged as being apparent in the study schedules of many students, it was not something that the university wanted to facilitate in extending operating hours of study spaces. This is despite the fact that many students indicated that their need for study spaces was not a matter of choice; but instead resulting from several impediments that young adults face in accessing higher education in Australia.
The university also indicated that welfare and security concerns were a key factor in their hesitation to implement longer opening hours, despite the MSA providing accurately costed documentation that showed the increase in opening hours for this period would only result in increased expenditure of a few thousand dollars each semester. This is also ignoring the fact that 24 hour study spaces are already offered to students from a select few faculties despite problems such as cleaning, access to food and drink and security access still being present for these spaces.
The MSA’s survey results revealed that the Matheson Library was the most used library on campus, with the greatest need for extended operating hours during SWOTVAC and the examination period. When asked, 93.7% of respondents suggested that they would utilise a 24 hour library after hours during SWOTVAC. A majority of respondents studied between 6-10 hours a week during semester and over 20 hours during the SWOTVAC and examination period. More importantly, most respondents indicated that they utilised the library study spaces for quiet individual study, but also for collaborative group study, where appropriate study spaces are difficult to find outside university libraries.
After months of continued lobbying, the MSA was contacted earlier this month and informed that, as a result of the 24 Hour Library campaign, the University was instigating a trial into extended opening hours during the SWOTVAC and examination period for semester two of 2013. The trial will extend the normal operating hours in SWOTVAC, and three weeks of exams from Monday to Thursday by two hours, meaning the library will be open from 8am until 2am in this period. While this is not an immediate offering of 24 hour study spaces accessible to all students, it is an enormous win for students, and will allow the University to ascertain the demand for after-hours study spaces and will provide necessary traction to make a continued argument for 24 hour study spaces in the future.
This announced trial spells out a move into the 21st century for Monash, which is currently one of the only Group of Eight (Go8) universities that does not offer extended library operating hours. If Monash extends this trial to a full 24 hour library service, students will be able to stay later, arrive earlier and enjoy a higher quality and more accessible education.