Tower Talk Editor Matt Cook stayed up with Gleason to see what never closing looks like
Author: Matthew Cook
Gleason library in full swing in the middle of the night

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Gleason Library never sleeps. Since 2007, the library has been used by students round-the-clock as a work and meeting space, a dining hall and lounge, and sometimes a bedroom.

After 13 years of continuous use, Gleason is tired

The Gleason Refresh Project—currently in its design phase—is the double shot espresso the space needs to continue accommodating students long into the future. The refresh will be the product of extensive research and student consultation. For example, students will have the opportunity to test prospective furniture in January, after the the beginning of the spring semester. 

By reimagining Gleason’s layout, which includes more functional and comfortable study furniture, the project will preserve the space's essence while injecting it with new life and strength.

Construction will begin after Commencement 2020 and will be completed in time for the start of the 2020–2021 fall semester.

Until then, Gleason will continue to be open to students at all hours—including those when most people are asleep. And we can assure you that, even then, it’s still being used.

In the final weeks of the fall semester, Tower Talk Editor Matt Cook spent an evening and very early morning with some of Rochester’s most dedicated (and caffeinated) students. Here’s a running diary from his experience:

8:45 p.m.

I’ve claimed a spot at a section of one of the long, narrow tables that cut across the room. I’m surprised how busy it is. It seems mostly social right now.

There’s definitely a mix of energy: some groups seem to be having fun (there might be a party going on in Studio D); some students seem like they’re in subterranean levels of concentration; some students look as if their body is telling them it’s time go to sleep.

9:00 p.m.
Student count: 150+

If I apparated into Gleason, I’d say it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday. (It’s not Friday.) It’s noisy. Spirits are generally high. It doesn’t feel like anyone is doing work (discounting the people using the whiteboard right behind me).

It dawns on me that this is probably a period of transition. For some—likely those laughing easily—this is the homestretch. For others—those eating subs from Rocky’s or something from The Pit—this is just the beginning

9:15 p.m.

I’ve interrupted my first student. I went to take a look at Gleason’s “Theater” and was reading something posted next to the door. A student inside the room almost immediately appeared to ask if I had reserved the space. I assured him I wasn’t there to call dibs.

Having had a taste of disturbing students, I decided to interrupt one who made the mistake of setting up next to me: a first-year named Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth was doing math homework. She’s trying to double major in math and computer science. She was thinking she would stay until 12:00. (She’s seen 3:00 am before.) I asked her why she comes to Gleason, and she said she needs the background noise. “I like having other people around,” she said. “I feel like if I’m alone, I won’t get stuff done. I like having other people doing work, too; it helps me focus.”

For those not in groups, there definitely seems to be shared value in toiling alone together.

9:33 p.m.

I met two sophomores: Hugo and Lee. 

Lee was finishing some work. Hugo was waiting to meet some other friends who are coming to the end of a physics workshop in Bausch & Lomb Hall. They were actually planning to leave soon. So, I asked them about the latest they’ve stayed in the past. Both have worked through the night, up to their first class of the following morning. Their strategy for beating fatigue is to nap for an hour out of every four. My nap is about three-and-a-half-hours away. In a thermos. It’s coffee. I won’t be taking any actual naps.

Student working in one of Gleason's Studios
Student working in the Gleason Studio

As I was thanking Hugo and Lee for their time, I found my first fan of the Gleason Refresh Project in Hugo: “Thank you for improving this area.” 

You’re welcome, buddy. It’s all for you—and also all of the other students. 

10:00 p.m.
Student count: 150+

There’s less party energy, but it’s still lively. It can’t stay like this, can it? At some point, things have to die down. I’m undecided on whether that would be good or bad for me.

10:14 p.m.

I investigated the “Quieter Study Room.” I immediately felt bad about it. It was practically silent when I entered. Just walking through felt noisy. I almost apologized to the dozen-or-so students but didn’t know how to tell everyone I was sorry without speaking. 

10:34 p.m.

Overheard a student make encouraging progress: “OK. I’m getting somewhere. OK.” I’ve decided this is going to be my mantra for the remainder of the time I’m here. 

11:00 p.m.
Student count: 100+

There are significantly fewer people here, but you can’t really tell because of how spread out everyone is. Every nook and corner has someone in it. 

I spotted my first Maybe-if-I-get-up-and-stretch-I-won’t-feel-as-tired person.

11:18 p.m.

Wondering if I’d feel less tired if I got up and walked around, I headed toward Studio A. I met a group of five female first-years, working around a pile of Dove chocolates and M&Ms.  

They’re all friends, all here for different reasons: Perspectives of Biology homework; calculus homework; studying for a Brain & Cognitive Sciences course.

The fact that the semester is almost over has nothing to do with them being after 11:00 p.m. They’re here regularly, and it’s not just because of their course loads.

“We’ve also overscheduled ourselves,” said the studio’s spokesperson, who cited extracurricular activities and jobs as additional time thieves.

Hoping to get some compelling, “inside” information, I subtly steered the conversation toward the sensational. 

“Have any good Gleason stories?”

The question elicited some grumbling about Sundays. Between the regulars and those who have come to pay their procrastination tabs, you would be lucky to find a seat, let alone a studio. The group confessed that they are “very aggressive” when it comes to securing studios. 

I thought I was about to be given a glimpse into Gleason’s dark side, but the “aggressive” behavior turned out to be a harmless, quintessentially Rochester move. They created a spreadsheet to ensure they will always have access to a studio. 

As hardcore as this sounds, they’ve heard people bring sleeping bags to retain studios overnight. 

11:38 p.m.

Every so often, the quiet is broken by laughter that sounds like someone might be unraveling. I’m taking this as a sign we’re getting into the “twitchy” hours. 

Continue to Part II

For more information on the Gleason Refresh Project or to provide support, contact River Campus Libraries Director of Advancement Pamela Jackson. Enjoy reading about the University of Rochester Libraries? Subscribe to Tower Talk.