On a recent Wednesday at 11 p.m., many college students were probably at home, maybe thinking about getting some sleep. But for juniors Andrea Gourley and Dinorah Blasco Flores, their night was just beginning. These two engineering majors would be studying into the wee morning hours in the Fondren Library Center.
“We’re here pretty much everyday,” Blasco Flores said. “When there’s something big I need done, like a test or a project, I come here.”
Fondren Library began 24/7 service in 2007, which became 24/5 service in the spring of 2011. The library now closes at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and opens at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. But during those week night hours, students of all majors pile inside.
About 60 students were studying in the Information Commons in Fondren Library with Gourley and Blasco Flores.
Blasco Flores was studying a number of subjects, including cellular biology, linear algebra and fluid mechanics. Gourley was studying fluid mechanics and scientific computing. The study partners say they have created a few fond memories during their late-night sessions.
“I’ve pulled several all-nighters here,” Blasco Flores said. “We have a lot of fond memories at 3 a.m.”
Blasco Flores then turned to Gourley and asked, “Remember when my shoe flew off?” The women burst into peals of laughter.
“That would take a lot of explaining,” Gourley said. “Most of my memories involve Jimmy John’s and coffee.”
It’s not just studying that requires an all-nighter. Fondren Library has student employees who work three nights a week. Two of those nights are spent behind the circulation desk from midnight to 8 a.m. Jash Sanghvi and Nishit Korthari are both employees at the library and Indian graduate students studying telecommunications.
“I got this job for the extra pocket money,” Korthari said.
Student employees have the opportunity to study for classes, but once homework is done, whiling away the hours may take some effort.
“We have to make it interesting because we feel sleepy most of the time,” Sanghvi said.
“We play games, usually ‘Counter Strike’,” Kothari said. “This job can be fun.”
Fondren Library didn’t always have its current schedule. In 2007, the library was open all day, every day, and before that, the library only stayed open until 2 a.m.
Gillian McCombs became dean and director of Central University Libraries in 1998. She helped set up Fondren’s around-the-clock service, which was proposed by the Fondren Student Advisory Council.
“The students were very desirous of having this service,” McCombs said. “The students [on the Council] were excited that they’d had an impact and they informally called the kids who got together at 2 or 3 a.m. ‘Club Fondy.’”
SMU alumnus Benjamin Wells graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s in science anthropology. Fondren Library’s extended hours began in his junior year and were very useful during his time at the university.
“I used it all the time,” Wells said. “I would be there at any time on the weekend or weekday.”
In 2011, the around-the-clock service turned into the current all-night, weekday service. This change was a decision by the library.
“We collected data, which showed that we had very few students, if any, on Friday night and Saturday night,” McCombs said. “We realized it was not worth that extra money to keep the library open when the students weren’t using it.”
The current cost for the overnight hours is about $24,000 annually, not including the cost of the regular security guard who works from 6 p.m. to midnight.
“The Dean has done a great job of listening to students,” Wells said. “I’m happy to hear it’s still open 24 hours, at least during the week, and that it’s used by students. I’ve never seen a library so crowded at 3 a.m. except for Fondren. It’s impressive.”
On a recent Sunday at 3 a.m., about 30 people were studying. These students were either in the Information Commons, the government information section, or on the open area of the second floor.
While studying with someone else can be beneficial, some students prefer to work alone. Last year, Sophomore finance and political science major Hunter Pyle pulled all-nighters every few weeks in Fondren for exams.
“I liked the study rooms on the second floor most because I could have a room to myself and stay there all night,” Pyle said. “No one bothered me.”
Some students may have fond memories of late-night hours spent in Fondren, but others only remember the stress of studying for a difficult test or finishing a detailed project.
“I have no fond memories of being here,” said William Hammond, a sophomore studying finance and pre-med. “Just bad memories. Nightmares.”
“I don’t like staying up,” Pyle said. “It’s miserable. Just me and my Red Bulls.”
Many students go to the library to get work done on their own, but there is also a social aspect to late-night studying.
“If you study there long enough, you recognize the same people. It was as much a social place as it was to study,” Wells said. “The same group of people would always be there studying.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” Blasco Flores said. “Fondren is awesome. Go Club Fondy!”
Aguirre is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter (@laurencaguirre).