University Libraries — When the Students Are Away the Library Mice Will Play

A library is a safe haven for students to research and compose. It is a concentration-inducing zone that gives us access to the world’s knowledge. Not to mention that group psychology is a total perk. Seeing a med student sweat through a 900-page volume makes us reconsider the “tragedy” of writing a 5000-word linguistic paper on second language acquisition. There is only one dreaded moment, one obstacle that keeps students from socializing with library mice as much as they would like: closing hours.

UZH has wonderfully-stocked libraries. They are exemplary for Switzerland and for many other European universities. The study areas are well lit. The shelves are packed with updated research. But the time to clear out our desks comes right when many of us, who have had classes all day, are most productive.

As if to mock us, our libraries like to make every night an early night. The Central Library (ZB) closes at 8pm Monday through Friday and at 5pm on Saturdays. The English Seminar Library (ES) bolts its door as early as 6pm on weekdays and 5pm during semester break, and it is always closed on the weekends. Even the Medical Library and the libraries at Irchel close no later than 8pm. With its toll set at 9pm, the Institute of Law Library is the only exception to the rule.

While students were typing away on their laptops on a Wednesday afternoon, I got up from my bench and gathered some opinions about the students’ study habits at the ES. Ten students out of ten supported the idea of extended library hours, and Frederika Nierstrasz, a student of English literature and linguistics, shared her thoughts.

“The ES library closes at six, which means I have to uproot my work to the ZB, but even that closes at eight,” she said.

English student Cristina Zanetti said she would appreciate a more flexible time schedule and introduced an additional issue.

“I usually don’t have much time to study at the ES library during the week, but I have always wanted to go to it on the weekends.”

Students have more time to research, write, and read during the weekend, and the library is the perfect place to do it. Libraries are home to the mind. Besides, the thought of all those books all by themselves is heartbreaking. We know well that when the students are away the library mice will play.

ZB Library picture taken fromürich.jpg

Library Mice picture taken from


8 responses to “University Libraries — When the Students Are Away the Library Mice Will Play

  1. Excellent article. And I think this is one of the points at which the advantages of a campus university become most obvious. Where I studied for my BA, you could go to the library at any hour, day or night, because we had our own keys – the Arts library was unstaffed, so one had to check one’s own books out, but this was a very small price to pay, given the enormous usefulness of a 24-hour library (knowing students’ late-night habits, this was a godsend,)
    Plus there’s something very Gothic about sitting alone in an old, wood-panelled library late at night… All that would be needed would be a candle. Though that, no doubt, would have been considered a fire hazard!

  2. Actually, I went to Zurich on a Saturday not too long ago. I could not possibly have imagined that the ES library wouldn’t be open. Time well spent. I should have checked first 😛

  3. Although of course to be fair to the librarians, we can’t expect them to work all hours and weekends… 😉

  4. thanks a lot for this article and for raising the question of library opening hours. from my time in toronto and tallahasse, fl, i know that many university libraries in north america are open almost 24 hrs. i was told that it is only a matter of time that Swiss university libraries will follow since this is a service expected by many international students and scholars. so let’s be patient…

  5. Hm… this is something I’ve never really given much thought, to be honest. I almost never work at the library. For some reason, I just can’t concentrate with so many other people around me. I somehow feel observed and watched (paranoid, I know). Then there’s all the rustling and shifting. Or no rustling and I feel like I’m the one making noise and disturbing everybody else. I prefer working at home, so I usually just make short trips to the library to get the books I need.
    What I definitly agree with is that the ES libarary should be open on Saturdays. It could be a smaller time frame, but it’s really annyoing when you NEED this book and don’t have time/forgot to go get it during the week and then you lose two days on which you’d have had a lot of time to work but couldn’t because you didn’t have the book.

  6. Thank you all for your comments, guys!
    Indeed, Cyril, many universities in the United States and Canada offer a study area 24/7, and the United Kingdom has similar policies. Even if we are not a collegiate university and our buildings are scattered across the city centre, all students need a library.
    The ES library doesn’t have the kind of Gothicism Ciara hinted at – except maybe that eerie little window that draws a different shape of light with every afternoon hour that passes. 🙂 But the concept is the same, and as Raph says, there might be ways to prolong our study time at the library.
    Carmen, you make an equally interesting point: not everyone likes studying at the library. But many like to browse and that takes time. So as Cyril says, let’s be patient. And hopeful.

  7. Above all thoughts are good.

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