What happens in the library after 2 a.m.?


Photo by Sam Verbulecz.

Cassandra Beck

Ever wonder what goes on in the middle of the night at the Kent State University Library?

For the first time, the library is open 24 hours a day, five days a week.

We sent Daily Kent Stater reporter Cassandra Beck on a trip to the graveyard shift of the library.

Here’s what she found:

2:06 a.m. – The sidewalk is lined with dim streetlights as I walk from my car up to the library. I think of all the recent robberies. I think about receiving a Flash ALERTS: “Girl killed on way to library.” I power walk the rest of the way. As I approach the doors, I look up. All the floors are lit except for the top three.

A couple of students stumble out of the library. I attempt to open the front doors. They’re locked. I make eye contact with the security guard a little to the left inside the doors. He motions for me to walk around to the far left hand enterance, the only doors open from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

I hand the security guard my FLASHcard. He swipes it and mumbles, “thanks.” I walk through the doors and stand there for a second; it’s almost dead quiet, and I don’t know where to go. One guy shuffles books behind the circulation desk; usually there are three or four people working there.

The circulation desk is open during the night, but no cash-based transactions are available after 11 p.m.

I make my way through the first floor. There is not a soul in the computer lab area. There are about eight students on the first floor alone; almost all of them with papers and books spread out, working by themselves. One pair of students sits at a reference computer, pointing at the screen and whispering back and forth.

I sit down at a computer and check my email. Good thing I drank coffee before I left.

2:22 a.m. – I press the “up” button at the elevator. I wait a few moments and then the doors open and a group of four people walk out. It sounds like they’re discussing a group project. I take the elevator to the second floor, where I see two girls sitting in a glassed-in study room, both staring at Facebook screens instead of books. I walk along the second floor, noticing about six people, almost all wearing earbuds and poring over books.

A kid who sits overlooking Risman Plaza stretches and seems to be taking a small break from his work.

“I’m usually here a lot — usually from 11 p.m to 3 a.m.,” said Eric Pahls, freshman nursing major.

Pahls is working on a paper for Music as a World Phenomenon due the next day. He says he chooses to study in the library rather than his dorm in Wright Hall because it’s quieter.

A constant, steady sound of a floor cleaner rumbles in the background.

2:39 a.m. – I make my way up to the third floor only to realize that there really is nowhere to go on that floor. The old audiovisual services area is locked with a gate and all the office doors are closed. I hear a sound and jump, only to see a custodian pushing a cart out of the bathroom.

The library will return to its former hours for summer session. 24/5 will resume in the fall.

I take the stairs up to the fourth floor and relax when I see three students at the desk and tables outside of the Writing Commons. I walk up and down the stacks of books looking for students tucked into desks among the bookshelves. I don’t find anyone, so I sit down and pull out “19 minutes,” a novel I brought and read for 20 minutes or so.

3 a.m. – I head up to the other floors, and I must admit, I couldn’t get the idea of a “library ghost” out of my head. (An administrator had told me about it for another story.) I’m conscious of every sound I hear even checking behind me a few times as I climb the stairs higher.

I get to the fifth floor and find a girl sitting at a table by the elevator. Her books and papers are spread across almost the entire table. She’s studying Cost Accounting.

“I’ve been here since five,” says Kyleigh Sumner, junior accounting major. “My test is tomorrow. I’ll be here until I feel ready for it.”

Sumner says she studies at the library because she can focus more.

“The silence kind of creeps me out, but I don’t want to move all my stuff,” she says.

I walk in and out of the rows of journals all along the fifth floor. I try not to scare the random students tucked into random tables and chairs among the bookshelves.

3:07 a.m. – I make my way up to the sixth floor and count a total of five people there. One kid sits with his hood up and his face down in his arms, sleeping.

Everyone is studying with coffee and energy drinks on the tables.

I sit for a little and check Facebook on my phone; no one says a word the entire time.

3:18 a.m. – I take the steps to the seventh floor and see no one. I’m creeped out. Just as I’m walking along the back row of books, I see a girl sitting by the window, books spread out all over the table in front of her.

Sarah Krueger, senior English major, is working on an Old English paper. Krueger had come straight from her job to work on the paper. An open Monster energy drink sits on the table.

“I think the silence is kind of a nice distraction,” Krueger said.

Krueger says she had to close out of Facebook so it wouldn’t distract her.

3:26 a.m. – There are a total of two people on the eighth floor. I make my way over to the windows on the left side and look out over campus. One person is walking toward the Student Center through Risman Plaza.

Tri-Towers and the Centennials look cool lit up in the middle of the night. I think of someone tucked into bed, all warm and comfortable, and here I was on the eighth floor of the library, an eerie silence all around me.

3:33 a.m. – I walk onto the ninth floor and stand there for a second. There’s no one.

I stop to take a picture. The sound of my camera clinking makes me jump. I hurry back down the stairs.

On the way down the stairs, I see a custodian cleaning the glass on the doors outside of the fourth floor. I stop and talk to her for a little, finding out she is one of the four graveyard shift custodians and has been working the shift for 35 years.

The custodian says it’s been pretty quiet since the 24/5 started but having the students around all the time hasn’t bothered her. She predicts that student traffic will really pick up once finals roll around.

3:40 a.m. – I take the stairs back down to the second floor and pass through to the escalator, which is the only noise I can hear. I head down to the circulation desk and wait to talk to someone.

I meet Cassandra Ribita, circulation and audiovisual assistant who works the night shift. She works on checking in books that come back during the day. There are about 500 to 700 of them.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” Ribita says. “Students are polite and come and really get work done.”

I stop to talk with the security guard on the way out, but he says he’s not allowed to talk to me. Whatever.

I finally push past the glass doors and head back to my car. The campus is still empty and scary, and I practically run back to the Eastway parking lot where I’m parked. I’m relieved when my car is in sight.

I suddenly see a white truck turn the corner, and it’s slowly driving toward me. I stop where I am, expecting the worst. As the truck passes me, I relax as I see “Kent State University” on the side. I get in my car and lock the door.

4 a.m. – I turn on my car; it’s the loudest noise I’ve heard in two hours. I can’t wait to get home and climb into bed instead of climbing any more library steps up to empty, silent floors.

Contact Cassandra Beck at [email protected].