Arriving at the LRC at Penrhyn Road campus an up-beat team are behind the desk greeting students with big smiles.
It is 10pm, not late really, but for those of us who are promptly up at 7am every day; the body has well and truly past into ‘shut-down’ mode.
However, from 8.30pm Sunday-Thursday these members of staff regard 10pm as the ‘late morning’ of their day and the LRC night team are ready for another 12 hour shift.
Thomas Koruthu, night team coordinator, jolts the senses awake with his vibrant demeanour. He talks calmly but passionately and is so active and animated right down to his hand gestures.
Having been an LRC night team member for five years it is clear to see he has adjusted to the hours, as have the rest of the team. Not a coffee in sight, but bags of energy to give.
He explains how night time opening hours resulted from students asking for it through student feedback. Meaning that everything they do is for the students, with the help of students.
LRC night team manager, Sharon Gibson, said: “We’re trying to keep both sites [PR, KH] open every night. The team work really hard so it’s about managing that tiredness and keeping going.
“We try to ease the pressure on the people studying, help them cope with workloads, and create a safe, calm environment with a nice vibe.”
Sharon said that since the night time opening hours commenced in November 2008 52 per cent of students on average make use of the library after dark.
After Easter and during the exam period is the busiest time across all campuses.
Thomas pulls up some highly impressive graphs and Excel spread sheets to show that in the year 2011-2012 they reached an average population of 847 students per hour – even in the wee hours of the morning.
In terms of employees, the night team isn’t only made up of students looking to make some extra cash.
Night team veteran, Stephen Flood, 62, saw it as the perfect remedy to the question of ‘what now?’ once he took early retirement from the usual 9am-5pm.
“I saw the advertisement and thought I’d give it a try,” said Stephen. “I liked the package that was offered, summers off and flexibility, [but] it was a bit of a gamble because working nights wasn’t something I did in my normal job.
“But I’m local and I know the university quite well. I like working with lots of people so I thought the job would really suit my personality.”
Being a people person is crucial to this role and when recruiting night team members Sharon wisely assures me: “When I see that person, I know who they are.”
She said: “I look for someone who is really going to interact with the students. I want people to be customer focused and very friendly.
“These guys are together at two, three ,4am so they all need to get on well with each other and everybody in the building.”
They laugh over a Robin that had been outwitting the staff members for a few nights, making them run around whilst leaving its ‘mark’ .
As they joke around with one another their energy is infectious, Thomas apparently being the ‘pun master’ of the group, and the laughter spreads through the ground floor.
Stuart Gray, 39, is new to the night team game and is only five shifts in but loves it.
“I like the team, they’ve been really kind to me and helpful, everyone tries to keep a good mood going,” he said.
“There are students who are really stressed out but when you can help them and actually do something, you’re not just giving up and they’re able to achieve something. It’s really positive to be a part that.”
Thomas is adamant to one rule for the students however which is a firm discouragement of sleeping.
He assures it is in the students best interest as he talks of a past case where a diabetic was in desperate need of a glucose injection, who on first glance appeared to just be sleeping.
Another incident involved a student who had drank too many energy drinks but luckily in both cases the ambulance was called immediately and full recoveries were made.
The obvious sentiment running through the whole team here is genuine care for the students’ well-being and safety.
This is demonstrated perfectly by the teams rigorous hourly checks of the all the floors.
To work the night shift requires dedication and enthusiasm and it is clear that none is lacking with these night owls, these un-sung heroes.
“We are a very tight knit community,” said Sharon. “If you’ve been here at four in the morning with someone, you really get to know that person. We have a very strong team spirit.”
So, the next time you’re burning the midnight oil, take note of the night team burning the oil with you.
It is because of them that dissertations can be finished, printed and bound at 3am, exams can be revised for with access to all-night coffee, and that even in the dead of night, there are still plenty of smiles on offer.