University of New Mexico students who keep late hours and are looking for a safe place to study might find that Zimmerman Library doesn’t meet their needs.
Since its founding in 1938, Zimmerman has been a focal point of academia at the UNM. It’s difficult to miss the behemoth Pueblo Revival structure at the core of main campus — designed by renowned architect John Gaw Meem, it remains the Sante Fean’s best-known work at the University where he popularized the architectural style.
With a few exceptions throughout the fall 2019 semester, Zimmerman’s regular hours are 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 2 a.m. on Sunday. The hours vary during fall and Thanksgiving breaks and when the library is open 24 hours on certain days during midterms and finals weeks.
Mark Emmons, associate dean for public services at University Libraries (UL), said UL has “closely tracked” data on how the four libraries on campus — Zimmerman, Fine Arts and Design, Parish and Centennial — are used by students in order to settle on the current hours of operation.
“Various hour scenarios for Zimmerman were explored before the current hours schedule was settled on,” Emmons said. “Opening until 2 a.m. during the regular semester and offering 24 hours for midterms and finals has been the best balance of user needs and the practical aspects of keeping open and staffing such a large building as Zimmerman.”
While few universities and colleges around the country have 24/7 or 24/5 library access for students, 24-hour study spaces are more commonplace — particularly at private universities. Cornell, Stanford, Columbia and many other internationally-renowned institutions have dedicated spaces for study with unlimited access.
Cindy Pierard, director of access services and undergraduate engagement for UL, told the Daily Lobo that Parish Memorial Library offered 24/5 access in response to students requests in 2007. Demand for those hours was never particularly high, however — particularly from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. — and Pierard noted most students prefer to study at Zimmerman late at night rather than at Parish.
“We have heard many times that students would like us to be open 24/5 or 24/7, but the (usage) numbers don’t support that,” Associate Dean Emmons said. “Currently between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. we average 10 students per hour during midterms and 22 per hour during finals. Between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. we average 173 students per hour during midterms and just over 200 students per hour during finals, so (usage) seems to really drop off around 2 a.m.”
UL management told the Daily Lobo they weren’t aware of any 24/7 study spaces on campus. The Center for the Arts building and George Pearl Hall are available 24 hours a day to students with key card access in the music department and architecture department, respectively. It wasn’t immediately clear if other buildings have 24-hour key card access for students.
Safety at night is also a concern regarding library hours of operation, according to Pierard. UL management has heard concerns voiced by Zimmerman staff and library users about getting home safely after working or studying late at night.
The UNM Police Department offers a 24/7 escort service to anyone traveling between locations on campus.
“For the last few years, we have been granted funds by the Student Fee Review Board to offset the costs of salaries and security for keeping Zimmerman Library open through 2 a.m. as well as 24 hours during midterms and finals,” Emmons said.
According to Pierard, UL management considers a number of factors when determining hours of operation for campus libraries, including student demand, budgets, staffing levels and enrollment. Emmons noted that, even if the library system were to gain access to more funding, it wouldn’t necessarily translate to extended hours.
Funding for University Libraries totaled $14,728,650 for the 2019 fiscal year ending June 30. The majority of the money ($7,603,604) was budgeted for salaries, while $5,518,940 went towards collections and $1,606,106 was allocated for operations.
The College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences (CULLS) successfully campaigned for funding from the New Mexico Legislature during the 2019 legislative session: $1.14 million in one- time money for shelving for the South Campus Repository, $150,000 in recurring funds to support UNM Press and $45,000 in one-time money for library equipment.
UNM University Libraries — as a unified entity — is the largest library in New Mexico and has more than four million print volumes, according to an annual report compiled by the College. UL also has “extensive” collections online that students and faculty can access 24/7.
Andrew Gunn is a senior reporter and copy editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @agunnwrites