From the end of March, Edinburgh University’s main library will be accessible 24 hours a day. This may seem like a useful measure for helping students get work done, but in reality, its implications are far more damaging.
The decision to extend library opening hours comes off the back of the motion at Student Council at the end of last year to support nap pods on campus. The proximity of the two new proposals seemingly highlights the fact that the concerns raised by the nap pod debate with regards to student welfare have remained largely ignored.
At the end of last year 1,616 people voted in favour of Edinburgh University Students’ Association backing proposals to construct nap pods on campus. Despite the obvious questions over hygiene and practicality, the decision to lobby nap pods was not without its critics. Opponents to the scheme rightly pointed out that conflating areas of study and sleep would hardly be conducive to mental wellbeing. The nap pods would also require extensive funding, and with so many areas of the university needing greater investment, they seem like a whimsical extravagance.
Nap pods and extra opening hours merely represent a quick-fix to what is clearly a widespread epidemic. Students who feel incapable of taking a break from their studies need to be provided with meaningful and long term solutions to dealing with university life, not told that they should be working harder. The apparent need for nap pods will only be compounded by excessive opening hours at the library, as it creates an expectation among students that if they can be working, they should be.
Calls for extended library hours and nap pods on campus are indicative of a crisis among students. Whether this is because courses themselves are too stressful or because students are not adequately equipped to cope with the demands of university life, we need to be looking at the reasons why we are so insistent on upping working hours.
Admittedly, 24 hour openings at the library may be useful occasionally for those struggling to get an essay done or on the cusp of an astronomical fine but ultimately, opening libraries for longer will not breed healthy study habits.
For staff at the library, this announcement presumably has the same implications. It all contributes to a toxic climate that does not consider student’s basic human needs and mental health. At a time where there seems to be a direct affront to mental health services from the government, we need to look to other institutions to uphold them.
For many people, the study habits learned at university will go on to shape their experiences in the world of work and creating a healthy work and life balance is vital for ensuring overall wellbeing. Nap pods and 24 hour libraries do not encourage this.
Instead of pumping thousands of pounds into flashy but ineffectual solutions, the university should be investing time and money into improving counselling services for students. This way, we can eradicate the need for nap pods and 24 hour libraries altogether.
Image Credit: Vivian Marie