24/7 Study Area Good Place To Burn the Midnight Oil
April 15, 2004 12:06 PM
It’s 3 a.m. on a recent Thursday, and Ryutaro Maeda is studying at SF State’s all-night study area. He sits with headphones on, books spread across the table and a bright-green coffee cup at his side.
For about eight years, the library’s first floor quiet study area and computer lab has been open around the clock – excluding some holidays – providing students with a place to concentrate on schoolwork when their own cramped dorm rooms and apartments can’t cut it.
Both areas provide students with a well-lighted place, 24 hours a day, but a hard-core group of students prefers the hours after midnight when the only disturbance comes from the buzz of the fluorescent, overhead lighting.
“Late at night, it’s a lot more peaceful,” said Francisco Castañeda, a junior majoring in economics. “Half the students come in to sleep.”
According to many of the regulars, these periods can get a bit stressful. Waiting to use a computer can be a bit like a visit to the DMV, with students working feverishly to get their papers done on time in the two hours allotted to each computer session.
In 1996, Dr. Barry Munitz, then chancellor of the California State University, charged every school in the system to devise a plan which would make sure students had access to computers around the clock, said Deborah Masters, a librarian at the university.
While other CSU campuses required students to buy their own computers, SF State went another route, keeping part of the library open nonstop.
Staff has kept unofficial head counts and found that the demand for the area has grown dramatically since it began.
“It surprised us, to tell you the truth,” said Masters. “It showed what we thought wasn’t going to happen, that there was going to be so much use.”
According to Masters, the 24-hour area is in the process of being expanded as part of a $100 million building project slated to be completed in summer 2008. The project plans to add another structure on the west side of the library.
But in the meantime, students, half sleeping, work on papers while others pull jackets over their heads and dose off. Some determinedly stare at calculus homework with a Big Gulp at their side, clearly violating the library’s no food or drink policy.
“They’re kind of anal about bringing anything in,” said Castañeda.
One business student agreed. “You have to stack yourself on candy, water, coffee, whatever, before you come in… I guess when it all wears off, it’s time to go home,” said 20-year-old Kartik Garg. “That’s one thing they don’t have, is a vendor that’s always open.”
Garg is representative of the typically night owl, male demographic, but a few couples are usually to be found holding hands and whispering over their books.
The library opens its doors to everyone, including non-students. Sometimes, unwelcome strangers disrupt the tranquility.
Campus police constantly patrols the area, and the computer lab is supervised by a library community service officer. While police declined to go on record with their policies regarding loitering, many students said that they often see police escorting people out those who weren’t studying or were distracting others.
“I did see a guy once. He was very suspicious, and kept looking around, checking everybody out. Then he’d take a book out of his pocket and pretend like he was reading, and then he’d stare again,” said Castaneda. “He disappeared, and later I found out the cops came.”
“Sometimes homeless come in and they usually sleep on the chairs, and then the police come in,” said Maeda.
For 39-year-old Ramon Lazo, distractions such as these have never been a concern.
He recalls attending SF State 15 years ago when there was nothing available for students who wanted a place to study after the library closed. It was a lot different than his experiences when he lived in New York where everything was open 24 hours.
“The cool thing about studying at night is that during the day you really have to fight for resources,” said Lazo, who came back to SF State to enter the ITech graduate program. “For people that really want to succeed and get ahead, coming in at night is a good thing.”
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