Library Life: Night Libraries

Library Life: Night Libraries

**This blog post is a watered-down explanation and reflection, at best**

Lately on Twitter, Night Libraries has been a trending topic in the library and book community. The idea, proposed by Twitter user @erinroseglass, stated “what if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation” (23 Feb), in another Tweet in the same thread, she added, “maybe we wouldn’t be so addicted to these screen things if we had accessible, inviting, and stimulating places to feel seen, connected, included, and nourished?” (23 Feb).

Screen Shot 2019-03-03 at 4.56.10 PM

Twitter, being Twitter, immediately jumped on this idea – some in full support and some entirely against it, and of course, people in between.

People really seemed to like the idea of libraries being open much later to serve the night owl community. The thought of having a space to relax and talk without having to spend money, like one must do at a bar or coffee shop, was very appealing to them.

Some users pointed out the issues of homeless people being in the building or noisy children.

Debates took place regarding how quiet the night library should be.

People expressed disappoint in the fact that their own libraries were often closed by 8, or even earlier – especially on the weekends. They were frustrated that it seemed like libraries weren’t listening to what their communities really wanted – late night library hours.

Of course, librarians chimed into the debate, reminding Twitter that funding, lack of staff, and lack of support overall was often what caused libraries to close earlier in the evening. Some librarians even talked about how they tried keeping the library open later for programs, but the numbers weren’t enough to justify doing it again. They wanted to know where these people were when libraries tried late night options. Where were these people during levy season? Why were these people ready to march to their local government without taking a moment to ask why libraries receive so little support?

Yeah, I’d say the librarians were pretty defensive. I’d also say that the other Twitter users were very much romanticizing “night libraries”.

I’ve only been a librarian for about 8 months, but I’ve worked in a library for 7 years, and I can agree with the other librarians that attendance to programs determines a lot of things, and poor attendance is frequent.

Also, in regards to the homeless and children….THEY’RE PEOPLE WHO ALSO DESERVE ACCESS TO THE LIBRARY. I’d like to remind people to please leave their assumptions regarding the homeless and children at the door and to check themselves.

Have I dealt with problematic homeless people? Yes. Have I dealt with misbehaving children while their caregiver looks on? Yes.

But they aren’t the only people who cause trouble for staff and other patrons.

Homeless people aren’t the only ones watching porn, harassing staff, destroying the bathrooms, and etc. Plenty of other people do those things too.

Children aren’t the only ones who can be too loud and make messes.

So, please, check yourself before you say those things.

The library is open to everyone not just the rich, elite, etc. We serve our communities from the CEOs to the homeless. We’re not going to turn someone away from the library, day or night (unless they’re banned, of course).

Another issue with night libraries is the funding and staffing. Libraries have very little money, the staff don’t make much money, and there aren’t many staff there to begin with. For a night library to work, there would need to be more money because buildings are expensive to keep open. Staff would need to be increased because we’d need more people to work late into the night.

A few notes on staffing:

  • No, volunteers could not run the night library. That’s probably an insurance and HR nightmare.
    • To be a librarian, you need an MLS or MLIS. So a random person can’t be put behind the desk and called “night librarian”.
  • I urge people to remember that staff are human. We have homes, families, pets, etc. I LOVE my job, I really do, and honestly, I think the idea of a night library is pretty cool. At the same time, I want to go home sometimes. I work 6 days per week, and don’t have much time to spend with family and friends. Working until 2 or 3 in the morning would make that even harder. Would I work a night shift? Yes. But when thinking about the night library, please don’t forget to think about what that means for library employees.
  • Being open later would also mean needing more “behind the scenes” people to stay late. This includes the IT department, security, and police….

Safety is another concern for the night library. Some libraries have security and/or police officers. My library is one that has a police officer every day, nearly all day. While bad things happen at any time, the darkness of the night makes for more concerns, especially with people walking to and from the building, and staff leaving when the building closes.

Finally, I think the reality of night libraries would be people coming in for computers and to browse the DVD section. Maybe a few people would come in to hang out, but I really think most people would come in for the WiFi and computers, which is fine! I support people coming to the library. I’m so happy we can provide computer access and WiFi!

Also, what will happen when the novelty of night libraries dies off and people stop coming in as frequently? We heavily rely on stats for everything we do.

TLDR:

  1. Funding is an issue. Basically all the issues lead back to lack of money.
  2. Staffing is an issue.
  3. Safety.
  4. Statistics. (Would we get enough people consistently to justify staying open so late?)

 

Okay, it sounds like I’m against night libraries, and that isn’t true. I just want to encourage people to take off the rose-colored glasses and face the facts about libraries before they go running to their local governments and demand longer library hours.

People feel like their libraries don’t listen to them, and libraries feel like they aren’t being heard either.

What we need (and of course it’s easier said than done) is mutual support.

Librarians and library employees want to serve their communities and try to have their best interests in mind. So, yes, fellow librarians, we need to be open minded to what our communities have to say. We know the reality is much more difficult than people want to hear, but we need to be receptive to ideas too.

Local communities, listen to your librarians. They aren’t trying to kill your ideas. They’re being realistic, which isn’t always fun. They’re stressed over money and stats, and the night library feels like another thing that we can’t deliver on and it’s difficult. It feels like people love to criticize us without thinking about why we have to do what we do.

So… what’s next?

Support your library.

  • Vote for that levy.
  • Be kind to your librarians. They’re trying to work with nearly nothing, and we’re frequently told what we could do better and rarely told “thank you”.
  • Use the library as much as you can!
  • Encourage your local government to support the library.
  • Encourage your friends and family to utilize the library.
  • Go to programs when you can!
  • Join your Friends of the Library group.
  • Support ALL library users. That includes children and the homeless.

Support your community.

  • Listen to them
    • Night libraries weren’t a criticism. @erinroseglass issued an apology the other day. She wasn’t bashing libraries or librarians. She had an idea, one that is not likely to happen, but it was an idea that got people excited about libraries. And that’s pretty cool.
  • Keep promoting programs and being excited.
    • Night libraries might not have been what we wanted to hear, but remember, people are thinking about their local libraries now. It’s a great time to showcase what we have to offer, especially in the evenings.
  • Make the library accessible and welcoming for everyone.
    • Consider reduced fines or fine free alternatives to materials.
      • That’s another hot topic for another day.

 

 

27 thoughts on “Library Life: Night Libraries

  1. Really interesting post, this debate had passed me by!
    Many university libraries are open at night but of course only people with passes would be allowed in.
    Funding obviously the top issue and also finding people willing to staff libraries at night in potentially unsafe locations. I think libraries aren’t necessarily the ideal place for people to socialise at night, but you’re right, everyone should have access and that includes children and homeless people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post. I’ve been a librarian for 6 months now and the first thing I thought of is, “Ugh, I’d hate to work that late.” My library is open until 9 most days (6 on Saturdays, closed on Sundays) and I already close 4 nights a week. I would hate to have to work until midnight or later.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! I recall that my undergrad university’s library was open pretty late, but I don’t think it required passes to get inside.
    I agree! As someone who works in an area that isn’t the safest, I’m weary at the thought of working late into the night. We already have issues during the day, and I worry those would increase at night. I had a late night program in the building next door to my library, and afterwards I found that someone had slashed one of my car’s tires.

    Like

  4. I think that instead of Night Libraries people want more of a night bookstore. I’ve been to plenty of bookstore events that happen later in the evening, and I think that this would be way more fun. For starters, most bookstores have areas where they have cafes. So you could eat and chat and read. Also, bookstores would basically fund their own events, as people would look around and patronize the store as they enjoy the relaxing meetup.

    I worked in a library part-time over the summer, and libraries that I went to didn’t have much “stimulating” discussion anyways. People in my city mostly use the library as a sort of free daycare or PC cafe, unfortunately. The library makes most of its money from people printing out pages daily, or faxing, or paying to rent movies. I wish more people would use the library as a library, we had a few really nice events here and there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re exactly right! And unfortunately, there aren’t many bookstores left (at least not where I am), and the ones that are left are very expensive – although I’ve never seen them kick someone out for not buying anything.
      It’s definitely unfortunate that people see the library as a sort of day care. It’s stressful on us because we cannot be responsible for these kids. I think libraries that have separate children’s rooms might have more success than branch libraries where everything is on one floor and close together.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I live in a pretty large city, but I have to actually go into NYC for any bookstores or drive for like 30 minutes to an hour with bad traffic to go two cities over. I just go online.

        And yes, the library is seen as a daycare. At my library, literal daycares would show up with like 1 adult and 13-20 kids for our summer reading events. We couldn’t kick them out, but the daycare person was clearly not going to be handling all these children on her own. The librarians became her own helpers. And thats on top of the parents that just drop their kids off. So it would get pretty hectic.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The fact your libraries have the funding to even try these things is amazing. I’d love a bar where people came to read and/or discuss books. But I know the reality is it’s cheaper for me to do this at home which means most ppl are probably thinking this making the idea worthless (except for the rich)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really grateful that my library is open until 8 and that I can do evening programs. Money is always be an issue, and I know it’s cheaper for me to stay in. I just want to see everyone be able to appreciate books.

      Like

  6. My library has just started opening from 8 til 7 and the only way has been to make it a Self service library and to cut staffed hours in half. So the library is open but staff only there for three hours a day.
    I’ve lost most of my contract and had to move to a different library to make up hours.
    Yay people are happy the library is open later but angry there is no one there to help them.
    I agree, where were these people when we put out consultation forms and petitions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, wow! I’m so sorry that the staff hours were cut like that. That’s horrible. Libraries need their staff to best serve their communities. I don’t think people realize how serious we are when we tell them what we need, and I also don’t think they realize how much the library does until that is taken way.

      Like

  7. Brilliant post! In Bordeaux, where I live, I don’t use the libraries much because the English books departments are few and the shelves aren’t overflowed with books. I find it sad that they close around 5pm, though.
    When it comes to night libraries, I think the idea is nice, but making it real seems impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m sorry your access is so limited! I think 5pm is too early because that’s when most people are getting off work, so it really limits who can go. Unfortunately, it’s usually because of budgets that they close so early.

      Like

  8. I think night libraries would be amazing but when you begin to think about finding and logistics it does become a bit of a nightmare. I mean, in my area you’d be turfing out drunken teenagers most of the night. It would be fabulous for hosting book groups and author meets.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s