The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

The light that never goes out

Last week, trick-or-treaters of all ages transformed themselves into witches and warlocks, haunting the hallowed Grounds of the University. While costumed kiddies were collecting candy, Clemons Library was undergoing its own transformation.

For the first time ever, Clemons remained open 24 hours during a non-exam week. Such library access opened a realm of possibilities for students trying to pack in maximum study time.

The library remained crowded at 1 a.m., many students still lingering to chat with each other or to check e-mail.

Known to many students as the most social University library, Clemons is a favorite place for students to meet with others, work on group projects or even eat a meal.

"At Clemons you can talk more, there's more room, and it's easier to meet your friends," said third-year College student Jennifer Rohrbaugh.

As students finished computer assignments, printers busily spitting out sheets of paper added noise to the buzz of conversation. One group of students enjoyed sandwiches from Littlejohn's, while another made plans for a weekend party.

Chelyse Stesanik, a third-year College student, avoids Clemons for this very reason.

"I go to Alderman because I don't talk to people there, so I get a lot more done," Stesanik said.

Thirty minutes later, a pleasant female voice announced over the intercom that all floors, with the exception of the fourth floor, were about to close.

But the voice did not announce the arrival of Ana Thea, possibly the most important player in the library's transformation. Thea, a librarian, volunteered to work the graveyard shifts at Clemons.

She now works from 1:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. five days a week.

"I'm not much of a sleeper. You miss too much," said Thea, smiling from behind the circulation desk.

Thea said a lot of people ask her how she got stuck with the night shift.

"I don't do anything I don't want to do," she said with emphasis.

For the past five or six years, Thea has volunteered for the Clemons night shift during exam week.

She enjoys offering "more personalized service" and often helps students look for their lost items. Thea, who holds an English degree, also feels qualified to guide students in researching and writing their papers.

As 3 a.m. approached, more were leaving Clemons than coming in. Conversations quieted down as students began to concentrate on their studies in the hushed atmosphere.

The printers also became silent, adding to the quiet of the fourth floor, with the few students who remained buried intently in their books.

By now, fifth-year College graduate student Darby Morrisroe was positioned in Clemons lobby, armed with a laptop and prepared to check incoming students for their student IDs.

The ID requirement is part of a security measure to protect students at night.

Morrisroe and Thea are hardly armed and ready security guards. Although their respective official titles are Overnight Building Monitor and Overnight Supervisor, Thea prefers the titles she invented herself. She calls herself "night mother" and refers to Morrisroe as "keeper of the gate."

Many of the students in the library say they could use a second mother during their late-night study sessions.

Third-year Engineering Val Virgili wrote feverishly while sipping a Pepsi to stay awake.

"This is miserable - I don't know what I did to deserve this class," said Virgili, who planned to pull an all-nighter to study for her test the next day.

Virgili said Clemons is a useful alternative to studying at home.

"It's just too much temptation. There's a bed, a TV. As soon as your head hits the pillow, it's all over," she said ruefully.

Second-year Engineering student Jay Voissem routinely studies late into the night. He uses the computers at Clemons to work on his assignments, and often finds he has easier access to the machines during odd hours.

Last week Voissem could be found working in Clemons at 5 a.m.

"I figure right now I'm more awake than during the day," he said, not appearing to be tired at all.

Students like Virgili and Voissem can find comfort knowing that Thea considers overnighters as her "night children."

Thea is popular during finals week, when she makes coffee and cookies available at around 4 a.m. Her adoring students simply know her as "the coffee lady."

Thea didn't offer any refreshments last week, but that didn't stop students from making Clemons their temporary home.

Students commonly used the quiet corners of the fourth floor to catch up on their sleep, and slept undisturbed last week throughout the early morning hours. The man who refilled the vending machines was very careful not to awaken any of them.

Long after the trick-or-treaters went home and slipped out of their costumes, Clemons library remained still and quiet. Night mother Thea watched protectively over her children, who studied in the silence.

The place was back to its normal self by midday, leaving no trace of its overnight transformation.

Comments

Latest Podcast

From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.