Time Out: Students Grapple with Unusual Facilities Hours

Frustration abounds as dining and library hours differ from terms past due to a staff shortage.

by Arielle Feuerstein | 7/16/21 3:00am

by Angelina Scarlotta / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

At 10 p.m. most nights this summer, students studying in Baker-Berry Library scramble to leave the building before it closes for the night. But for most of them, 10 p.m. only marks a midpoint in their night of studying, not an end. 

Stephanie Do ’23 said that whenever she is in the library at closing time, it always seems like students are taken aback when they remember the early closing time. 

“When I was leaving the library yesterday, half the people were like, ‘Oh, we have to leave?” Do said. “We’re still not accustomed to it.”

The library is not the only facility with unusual hours. Many dining facilities have also maintained pandemic-induced changes to operating hours. Collis Cafe — formerly open until 1:30 a.m. — was once a popular destination for late-night dining. Now, it closes at 8 p.m.  Monday through Thursday, 2:30 p.m. on Friday and it doesn’t operate on weekends. 

In both the library and dining facilities, many of the changes in operating hours can be attributed to a shortage of staff, according to library communications manager Tom Remp and Dartmouth Dining Services director Jon Plodzik. 

When the year began, “many [library] staff were still working remotely, and staff onsite had additional responsibilities to implement and monitor new safety protocols,” Remp wrote in an emailed statement. “We needed to condense the schedule to allow for more staff to cover these responsibilities.”

He added that Library staff are focused on returning to pre-pandemic operations by fall, so students are unlikely to see expanded hours this term. 

Plodzik encountered a similar staff shortage. Implementing COVID-19 safety protocols in dining halls required more staff members than previous terms, so Dining Services had to draw staff from other dining facilities, like Courtyard Cafe and Byrne Hall, the dining facility at the Tuck School of Business. 

He also explained that nearly every staff member that used to run Collis Late Night moved on to another job, whether within DDS or outside the College completely, when the Cafe closed due to the pandemic. 

Even as COVID-19 restrictions around campus loosen and campus life begins to rebound, these campus facilities have yet to return to normal operating hours. Currently, the library is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Novack Cafe study area, Reiss Hall — usually referred to as “Blobby” — and the 1902 Room are the only spaces open for 24 hours. 

These hours are more flexible than the operating hours last fall — when the library closed two hours earlier than this summer and no 24-hour spaces existed — yet it is still a ways off from Baker-Berry’s pre-pandemic operations. Normally, the library opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and operates from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends. 

Some students feel inconvenienced by the truncated library hours. Do noted that keeping library spaces open longer is particularly important this summer, as most students don’t have air conditioning in their dorms.

“People really count on Berry and the whole library as a place to do work in a comfortable setting,” Do said. “Being forced to leave early … that’s just inconsiderate of Dartmouth.”

After the library closes — with the exception of the 24-hour spaces — Do feels like students are “forced” into Novack, but studying there has its challenges.

“Novack is so crowded and loud. It's hard to do work there if you’re cramming,” Do said. 

Because of these changes, Ami Nwaoha ’23 has stopped studying regularly in the library. He felt that the hours were often unclear in Baker-Berry, and he was occasionally caught off guard when the library closed earlier than he expected. Instead, he said that he goes to Collis for most of his studying. 

“I live close to Collis and I know the hours. It’s always going to be open until two,” Nwaoha said. “I haven’t used the library as much as I did previously.”

Novack Cafe’s hours also vary greatly from day-to-day. On Monday through Thursday it operates from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. On Friday, it still opens at 7:30 a.m., but closes at 5 p.m. As for Saturday and Sunday, the cafe opens at 1 p.m. and closes at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively.

The inconsistency between days is a source of confusion. Nwaoha said he attempted to go to Novack on a Friday around 5 p.m., and was “shocked and confused” when the cafe was closed. He reflected that he has “no idea what the hours are at Novack.”

The Class of ’53 Commons increased its operating hours during winter term by changing the closing time from 8:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. to accommodate late- night meal swipes, although as of summer term, it no longer offers late night on Friday or Saturday nights. 

Nwaoha is disappointed that there are no late night options on weekend nights and wishes there was still a dining option open past midnight. 

“They end at 12, which is barely late night,” Nwaoha said. “I never go to bed before 12.”

Do thinks that the lack of regular late-night options past midnight is a safety concern. She felt that a place like Late Night at Collis was a reliable way for students to recuperate after drinking or partying, and she is worried that the limited dining hours take away that resource. 

“The fact that on two out of three ‘on’ nights, Late Night is closed, I feel like that’s unsafe for the Dartmouth students … also, most people are still out after midnight,” Do said. 

Even as campus fully reopens, there is nobody available to staff Collis after dinner, and Plodzik believes that Collis Late Night will likely not return in the fall because of the shortage. However, he anticipates that the Courtyard Cafe and the snack bars will reopen in the fall, and although he is not certain, he hopes that there will be a Late Night option somewhere every night. 

“The hope is that we can get to the fall, and everything will feel better,” Plodzik said.