Peter Caty/The Mirror

Whether one is a student, professor or visitor at Fairfield University, there is one building that never ceases to stand out: the DiMenna-Nyselius Library.

Fairfield’s only library was constructed from 1967-68, and after the new addition was added in 2000, it became the second-largest building on campus, which is topped only by the Bannow Science Center.  At 113,184 square feet, the library naturally stands as a beacon on campus, but the reasoning for this is less about the building’s size and more related to its lights.

The library is forever illuminated, day and night, summer, fall, winter and spring; it unofficially serves as the university nightlight, and many Fairfield students have taken notice.

“The university continues to spend money on expensive procedures, such as the geothermal heating and cooling system in the Jes Res, yet they can’t do something simple like turning off lights,” said Ryan Lee ’11.

As Fairfield University continues to implement its sustainability programs by implementing a co-generation plant, building a closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system, purchasing local foods, composting waste, and using a hybrid bus for students, it seems they are forgetting that the library is a major energy consumption source.

Saving energy costs in the library is actually more complicated than simply turning off the lights, and surprisingly turning off the lights costs the university more money and energy.

Fairfield University Head Electrician and Supervisor John Tedesco explains how leaving the lights on an average of fifteen hours a day actually lengthens the life of the bulbs.

“The 3,200 fluorescent light bulbs that illuminate the library have an average life of 5,400 hours, which means we only have to change them every five years,” said Tedesco.

Essentially, if the lights were constantly turned on and off every night the bulbs wouldn’t last as long.

Some Fairfield students were quick to see the catch.

Patrick Shields ’11 said, “wouldn’t saving energy by turning off the lights outweigh the costs of buying new light bulbs?”

Unfortunately for those students like Shields who feel strongly about saving energy through what many would say is common sense; there are other factors involved that overshadow the energy issue.

One of these factors is safety.

“Since the library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said David Frassinelli, the Assistant Vice President & Director of Facilities Management at the university, “the lights must be kept on in order to provide those students who stay past business hours with a safe and secure environment.”

Frassinelli continued by saying that since most other campus buildings, including Xavier Hall, the Bannow Science Center and the Rec Plex, all have their lights shut down at the end of each day.

One method that the university is pursuing to lessen power usage in the library is through reducing the amount of janitor night shifts.

“While there are plans in the future to take the night janitor shifts down from three to two shifts per night,” said Frassinelli, “this change would not significantly decrease the library’s power usage.”

Tedesco said that changing all 3,200 fluorescent bulbs in the library to the more efficient LED bulbs is too expensive for the university to pursue now, and even if the LED bulbs were feasible, every fixture would need to be changed to fit the LED bulbs.

However, now that a decade has passed since the LED bulb was still a concept, Fairfield has installed and has plans installed LED bulbs in street lamps in the new Jesuit Residence, the Quick Center parking lot and the Gonzaga, Regis and Loyola Halls.

While the constantly illuminated library may stick out like a sore thumb in a university working on becoming more sustainable, there are small changes being made in the library.

These include using double-sided printing, having easily accessible recycling and moving academic journals from paper to electronic.

Also, the slow phase-in of LED bulbs shows the university can change with the times.

The library may seem like a weak link in an otherwise green university, but the safety issues and the reality of a 24-hour library must be seriously taken into account.

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