Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971
The University Library
The University Library.
Everyone knows that this university is facing an accomodation crisis, no-one better than the staff of the library. Except, that is, for the students who try to work in the place.
One of the useful things that the University Grants Committee has done in its inglorious lifetime is to lay down guidelines for the number of Library seats which they consider should be provided for certain numbers of students. At our present enrolment level the total number required by the U.G.C. standard is 1580; the actual present total in our Library is 1110.
The space situation in the Library does not stop at a shortage of reading spaces. Shelving space is running perilously close to overflowing. The Librarian (Mr. Sage) in his annual report states that he has planned the moving of several thousand volumes to make use of the remaining shelf space, but reports that additional shelving must be found in 1972 if orderly grouping of material and ready access to it are to be maintained. He further reports that the number of books which could not be housed on the present shelves will have risen to 34,000 by the end of 1974.
The Rankine Brown building in which the library is housed was built as a Library building. Steady expansion upwards floor by floor was planned as space in other buildings became available for the departments presently occupying the top four floors. It is now patently obvious that the time for the first move is now.
At its June meeting, the Professorial Board received two reports which portray the crisis situation which the Library is facing. These were, the Annual Report of the Librarian for 1970, and a report from the Library Committee of the Board urging that provision be made next year for the Library to occupy at least half of the fifth floor. The section which the Committee envisages the Library taking over is at present occupied by sections of three Commerce Faculty Departments.
The Report of the Librarian reveals that the use of the Library has become more intensive over the last five years. In the period 1966-70, student numbers have risen by 21%, and the number of teaching positions by 30%. However, in that same period, loans of books and journals rose bye 110% and requests for books by 44%. "This much more intensive use of the Library", Mr Sage continues, "seems to have been brought about, not only by better facilities and service, but to have been influenced by a greater proportion of full-time students, by the increasing amount of graduate study and by different methods of teaching at all levels which require wider individual reading and consultation of library material by each student."
"There is some evidence that already the benefits to student work habits, produced by the new Library facilties, are being eroded by the difficulty of getting a seat in he Library and by the slowing up of services provided from very cramped closed reserve facilties."
The present problems that are faced by the Library extend past the bare fact that it is running out of working space. The grant which is available to the Library for purchasing books is another casualty of the Governments "increased" spending on education. The grant was cut back in 1969, put up a bit in 1970, but has been axed again for 1971. With increasing student numbers and rising book prices, the present standard of our library, by no means outstanding in world terms now, will slip further into the mire. And the situation very quickly becomes irrecoverable.
The report of the Library committee urges action to overcome at least one of these problems; the problem of space The committee studied the situation in the light of Dr. Cullifords report on accommodation for the University as a whole and recommended, "that, at the very least, sufficient temporary accommodation should be provided in 1972 to allow approximately half of level five of Rankine Brown to be taken over by the Library."
The Committees report emphasises the central nature of the Library to he work of the University, and feels that its needs should be a high priority in the general picture. "We take this view (1) because library space, particularly for readers, is at present appreciably under greater pressure than staff study, lecture room, and laboratory accommodation and (2) because the step of "stabilising enrolments at approximately their present level until facilities appropriate to larger numbers can be made available", which is the third point of Dr. Cullifords conclusion, will do nothing to affect this shortage of seats for readers."
The measure which the Library committee recommends, that of expansion into the fifth floor of Rankine Brown, would provide for about 160 readers and 35,000 books. This would still leave an unsatisfactory ratio of seats to readers, but it would at least allow the library to plan its book shelving until the end of 1974.
The case that has been made for the Library is a good one, but how much influence that will have on the final decision is debateable. The Library Committees report has been referred to the Admissions Committee of the Board, which is considering the whole situation as regards accommodation. It is a problem that many powerful administrators and academics might well like to forget about, especially those whose offices and departments get in the way.
But if one thing about the accommodation cramp is certain, it is that the Library will be the first place to feel the pinch. Students will feel it there before they have sleepless nights over the fact that their tutor has an office in a prefab.