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).
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.
- Funding is an issue. Basically all the issues lead back to lack of money.
- Staffing is an issue.
- 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.
- Consider reduced fines or fine free alternatives to materials.