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June 5, 2018 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Harsh Criticism to Auckland University Library Restructure

The proposal to centralise the libraries at the University of Auckland has been faced with harsh criticism by the student and staff communities.
A number of protests have taken place over recent weeks. A 100 person sit-in occured on 27 April at the Fine Arts School, followed by a protest march of around 1,000 people on 29 May. On 17 May a crowd of up to 2,000 people temporarily blocked Symonds Street, which runs through the campus.

Currently, the University hosts three specialist libraries within the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries: the Fine Arts Library, the Music and Dance Library, and the Architecture and Planning Library. In addition, there is the Tāmaki Campus Library, which hosts services for public health and exercise sciences, and the Epsom Library, which serves education, social work, and human services. The majority of the University is served however, by the general library, which houses the majority of the University’s library collection.
What has been proposed is the consolidation of the three Creative Arts and Industries libraries, and the Tāmaki and Epsom libraries, into the general library and/or into storage. The proposal document cited a dropping number of students using the specialist libraries, a deterioration of the facilities, and lack of disability access as major proponents in the decision to consolidate the libraries.

Several organisations and movements have been formed in an attempt to halt the proposals from going ahead. One such movement, A New University, was formed by students and staff of the University of Auckland, to illustrate problems which they believe go far deeper than the library closures in and of themselves. The movement was very heavily critical of the way that the University was run as a whole.

“For a long time the University of Auckland management have taken an approach to decision making that is both undemocratic, and based on a corporate model that simply doesn’t make sense in an education and research environment,” said a spokesperson from A New University. The group proposes that the university be more democratised, with much more direct student and staff involvement in decision making.
The Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) were also heavily critical of the proposal. “The closure of libraries represents the University shutting out student voices,” said Jess Palairet, an AUSA spokesperson. She disagreed with university calling the closure of libraries an “employment issue”. “This is rubbish,” she said. “It’s both an employment and academic issue — and we are perfectly able to talk about the adverse academic impacts that closing specialist libraries will have on students.”
Students are extremely vocal on the issue, protesting that they have not been consulted properly on the issue. One student who spoke to Salient praised the current value of library resources: “The crux of resource finding happens in the browsing of the shelves. This will now be near impossible, given that the shelves will have a skeletal portion of the music library’s collection available on hand.” Another student was equally frustrated by the nature of the proposal, saying “I feel that the roles of universities are to be the keepers of knowledge. By getting rid of the music library, the University of Auckland is essentially abandoning this role”.

Some students are more optimistic about the change. “It just makes more sense for the University to have a centralised library, and I struggle to see how a four minute extra walk to the library is an inconvenience,” another student said.
Auckland University Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said that while the proposed changes were controversial, they were in the name of ensuring a high standard of quality education at the university. “It is very clear now that we will have to continue re-shaping the university and reducing administrative costs wherever we can if we are to avoid reducing academic quality — which of course we must.”
Victoria University of Wellington does not plan any changes to its current library arrangement, and would consider specialist libraries on the basis of priorities for the university. A spokesperson from VUW cited consistent positive feedback on Victoria’s current library services.


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