Inconsistent library hours hurt those seeking a quiet place to work

October 18, 2023 — by Angela Tan
Graphic by Angela Tan
Students huddle in front of the library doors with an all-too-familiar “CLOSED” sign.
The library has abundant resources for research and literature, but arguably the most useful resource — a quiet space — is now often inaccessible to students. 

Last year, my 3rd period English teacher instructed me to print out and submit my Fall Writing Assessment before the end of lunch or else I would get a 0. I did not want to start the school year with low grades, so I frantically ran across campus to complete my mission, only to find the library doors locked shut with sneering bold words reading “CLOSED.” 

My mind swarmed with stress as I stumbled around campus looking for an open classroom with a printer and I held back spiteful tears when none of my teachers could magically generate one for me.

Unfortunately, I can’t waltz into the school’s beautiful, glass-paned library building whenever I want. For most of last year, the library was open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, but now the library is often closed at lunch, after school and occasionally even during tutorials. I am constantly playing a game of roulette trying to predict when I can go to return books, ask technicians to help fix my wifi connection or use the printer. 

Although there is a massive online collection of research databases and primary sources available for student use on the library’s website, I find that the physical space of the library is most helpful for students. When the campus library is open, students can use the room to collaborate on projects, study class material or even play video games. 

Unfortunately, this year’s inconsistent opening hours deter students from taking full advantage of the library space and resources it has to offer. 

The main cause behind this is a staffing shortage. Currently, assistant principal Matt Torrens is often the one overseeing the library because main librarian technician Lee Tapley has been away for health reasons since last spring. Along with textbook technician Cynthia Cheng, Torrens ensures that the library remains open during most tutorials because it is the “minimum” the school can provide, he said. On the days that there is another substitute staff member who can help out, the library is open after school too. 

The district chose not to replace the school’s last full-time credentialed librarian, Kevin Heyman, when he retired in 2020, a cost-saving decision that rankles many teachers and contributes to the overall problem of an often inaccessible, multimillion-dollar library.

Although the district has posted for a replacement library technician, they are hesitant to formally fill in the position, as it is not yet known when Tapley will be back from her leave. 

“It’s a question mark for someone who is looking for a regular job,” Torrens said. “They’re probably not going to apply for this because we can’t tell them when [their employment here] will end. That’s why we’re trying to fix it with some other in-house substitutes.” 

The circumstances for the library hours are unpredictable, so students just have to be patient and rely on other study locations for now. 

I miss the days in my freshman year when my friends and I would browse the walls of books and sit down among the quiet, empty rows of chairs. The always helpful Ms. Tapley would go through her own work, looking up once in a while to smile at us and ask if we needed any help while we giggled at peculiar images in old encyclopedias.

While there are many other causes such as sports and music programs that need funding at our school, all students would benefit if the district prioritizes hiring more library staff to keep the building regularly accessible before and after school. Hopefully once there is a regular library technician — or even a librarian — keeping the space open for student use, all the peace-loving library nerds like me can rejoice in knowing our quiet home has returned.