Students need later media center hours

staff editorial
Approximately two years ago, the media center began closing its doors to students at the early time of 2:40 p.m. instead of as late as 4:00, leaving students just 15 minutes to use its resources. Not only has this change been detrimental to students in need of the media center’s facilities, but most students have indicated that they would use its resources if it were open.
The change originally occurred as a result of major budget cuts. “We’re always asked to make changes regarding cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, and while one could argue that the media center is an extension of the classroom, the reality is that we had to reduce media center staffing,” said Superintendent of Schools Margaret Hayes, Ed.D.
As a result of the early closure, students are left with no place to work once the media center specialist, Eunice Akerblom, leaves. “There are kids who have been doing assignments [in the media center] and are told to leave but have nowhere else to go. On average, one day a week I stay beyond 2:40. Every day I have stayed, there are students here working. There will always be a few people here working as long as the library is open,” said Akerblom. “I think  it is important that there is a place [students] can  go safely after school to do research. It is the whole philosophy of the library.”
Fortunately, Hayes has expressed interest in re-opening the media center for longer hours if there is evidence that its services would be used. In a schoolwide survey,  more than 65 percent of students said that they would frequent the media center at least once a week if it were open until 4:00.
A majority also indicated that they would make use of the computers and the space to work collaboratively. “I would use it to work on projects with people, as it is an easy place to meet,” said sophomore Anthony Nizzardo.
One very important benefit to keeping the media center open later is that the school environment provides a quiet, undisturbed setting. “I go to the library to get a jump-start on homework, especially when I have a lot of computer homework, because I won’t get distracted by Facebook and other websites that are blocked,” said senior Emma Cavaliere.
Students who play sports or attend club meetings often have down time after school and are left with no place to complete schoolwork. “If I don’t have a ride home [after] Jazz Lab, percussion ensemble or even robotics club, having the library open for use would be very productive for me. If it were, I would not have to wait until I get home to do work,” said junior Jacob Kennedy.
“The late bus comes at 4:00, so [the media center] should be open until at least then,” said sophomore Katherine DeMarco.
There is a population of students that does not have access to a working computer or the Internet outside of school, and the media center is a simple solution to this problem. “There are resources in the media center that students will not find at home. Maybe a student has a computer at home but does not have a printer to print out a paper. They certainly do not have the reference material we have in the media center,” said Principal David Heisey, Ed.D.
In addition, homework and projects frequently require Microsoft programs such Powerpoint and Excel. “I would use the computers because my computer at home does not have all of the same programs as certain ones needed in specific classes,” said freshman Hailey Rachko.
Finally, the traditional role of the library as a place to find good books still resonates. “I borrow books,” said freshman Julia Napolitano, who, like other students, relaxes by reading for   pleasure. Senior Schuyler Peck said she would use the library “if I feel like reading instead of going straight home.”
Keeping the media center open longer is both advantageous and necessary. It is the responsibility  of the district to ensure that         students are able to take full  advantage of our educational resources, and having the media center available is an easy way to make a difference.