As we all know, public libraries across the UK continue to be threatened by closures, budget cuts, and reductions in paid professional staff. Much less common are closures of academic libraries within the higher education sector, but such things do happen. In fact, it is currently happening to the library I work in.
I’m employed as a library assistant in a British university that has multiple campus sites, with a different library serving each campus. On my very first day at work, it was announced that the university would eventually be closing this campus, moving the departments to other campuses, and then selling off the land. This was some two and a half years ago, but within a few months from now these changes will begin to be implemented. Half of the campus departments are moving to another site this summer, and going with them will be half of the library’s collection. What remains will be a dying campus, with empty buildings, a reduction in staff and students, and the knowledge that in three or four years from now, the campus itself will no longer exist.
So far we have weeded and subsequently discarded 10,000 items from the library’s collection, and 75% of our academic librarians will be moving to a different campus at the end of this semester; this means three out of the four librarians will be gone, which is a huge change for those people affected, and will make a big difference to our small team. Library assistants, like myself, are as yet unaffected. We have been assured that when the time comes for our library to finally close completely, there will be jobs for us to be slotted into at the libraries on other campuses. Whether or not people want to relocate to other campuses, however, is another matter.
On the positive side, our library is going to be redesigned this summer, taking into consideration the fact that half of the book stock will be gone. As the campus around us shrinks, so will the library, yet it will simultaneously become the hub of campus life for those students and staff remaining; incorporated into our library space will be the IT department, student services and career services, and we are staying in our current location, right next to the food hall. Although we have had no input into how the library will be redesigned, I am genuinely excited to see what it looks like by the time the next semester begins in September. More to follow in due course…
Have you ever experienced periods of great change at your library? Moved into new building? Undergone staff restructure? Feel free to comment below!