Have no fear, AS is here . . . for finals

The bustle of the SMC Main Campus library is a familiar one. The sound of zippers closing and opening backpacks every few seconds. A student takes out an intellectual sandwich — two textbooks with a MacBook stuffed between them. Another student notices the time on his dimly lit computer screen and throws everything into his backpack, zips it abruptly and proceeds to run up the stairs. He’s probably late to class. In the mix of all this flurried activity, Daniel Zarate, a business major, stays focused on what appears to be Japanese homework. After two years at SMC, it's his last semester and this is his last chance to cram for finals week. Zarate will be flying off to Japan to study business at Temple University this fall, but for now he has to stay focused and work hard so he can pass his classes and move on.

In his time at SMC, Zarate has taken multiple Japanese classes to prepare for his first choice university, and the library has always been the epicenter of his studies. For him, living in South Central, traveling to school every day is a draining commute; when he gets home he says he can’t get in the zone to study. Now more than ever, the library is his refuge for studiousness and a necessary place for him to ensure that he passes all his classes.

Luckily for Zarate and thousands of other SMC students, the library will be a bit different during this semester's finals period as the "Finals, AS is Here!" program, recently created by the Associated Students (AS) Board of Directors, will extend the hours that the library is open.

For a little over a month, Director of Instructional Support Martha Linden and Director of Student Outreach Alexandra Brechensbauer have been collaborating in an effort to work with the school's administration and Interim Director of Library Services Patricia Burson to extend library hours.

After five weeks worth of director’s reports and finding approximately $2,000 in the budget to allocate to classified staff, Linden and Brechensbauer have extended the library hours in preparation for finals week. The library will be open until 10:45 p.m. from June 1 through Thursday, June 2, and until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, with an additional day staying open until 10:45 p.m. on Monday, June 6.

Aside from being a direct assistance to students, the reason for making this an official AS program is to see if it can be repeated in the future should the boost in hours prove a positive benefit to students and improve their success during finals.

Linden explained the reasoning saying, “[SMC's administration] found that most people had a majority of their rigorous study to be toward the beginning of finals week... So extending the hours on the first couple of days would see the most people showing up.”

In an effort to ensure that students do show up and use the program, AS has been planning additional surprises: coffee, puppies, and pastries will be provided on certain days to help students focus and relieve stress.

The puppies, provided by the non-profit organization Paws for Healing, will be emotional service dogs rented to help students relieve the stress caused by the pressures of finals. According to Brechensbauer and Linden, this puppy practice has been an effective stress relieving measure at universities like UCLA and NYU.

The suicide prevention grant at SMC aimed to bring puppies as a stress relief, and AS started working with Paws for Healing. After confirming everything with SMC campus police, the puppies are cleared to be on the campus quad during the 11:00 a.m. activity hour on May 31, June 1, 2, and 6.

AS hopes to use these perks to compete with other university libraries. Brechensbauer spoke about how some students, including herself, have found themselves going to study at other universities due to the limited availability at SMC. She had studied at Loyola Marymount University’s library last semester, and found several differences aside from longer library hours that she wanted to implement at SMC.

Along with the nice perks and fun puppies, professors from the Math Department will be holding additional workshops and tutoring hours at the library during the extension. Math professor John Quevedo, along with four other professors, are holding their own specific times and dates for tutoring sessions in the library.

Quevedo said that he plans to provide help to students who will be in the group study room. “The idea is to get math students acclimated to studying in groups, using the library as a meeting place to study and learn, and take advantage of extended hours," said Quevedo.

After 16 years of teaching at SMC, Quevedo said that he understands how crucial both studying and having professors available as a resource are to student success. “[The] goal is to develop a culture where there is a greater student awareness about the time and labor intensive process of organizing, studying, reviewing, seeking, and utilizing resources to prepare for final exams," he said. "We need to continually derail habits of procrastinating and cramming lots of information in a short period of time.”

These resources provided by the "Finals, AS is here!" program and coordinating professors are all an effort by AS to ensure student success in the library.

Said Linden, “It’s important for SMC to have places where students can do work —it’s a reflection of our staff and resources.”

In her experiences with the library director, Linden said she found that Burson gave her more assistance than she had ever expected.

“The beauty of the library is that they have so much staff that this is their job to help you find the resources that you need," said Linden.

Burson said, “There is a heightened sense of purpose among the students in the library, and it is very busy the week leading up to finals and for the first few of days of finals week. You can sense the tension and concentration in the air.”

So for this semester's finals week, if you’re a student like Zarate, you’ll be able to study for longer than usual at the library. Instead of the last call yell at 9:45, you’ll only hear what you would normally: the traditional bustle of zippers opening and closing bags.