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After months of student demand the library has confirmed that it will be extending its opening hours during next term’s exam period.
In Week 10 SCAN reported that discussions to extend the opening hours were underway. After further discussions in the last two weeks, it has been confirmed that from 19 April until 18 June Library opening hours will be Monday to Thursday 8am-12am, Friday 8am-10pm, Saturday 10am-12am and Sunday 10am-9pm.
This equates to an 11% increase in the Library’s weekly opening hours and comes after a series of meetings between Head Librarian Clare Powne and LUSU VP (Academic Affairs) Danny Ovens.
Some had been expecting changes to take the form of a few hours past the current closing time of midnight. However, as Ms. Powne told SCAN, an earlier opening time of 8am was the easier option. “Opening later is considerably more complicated for us, what with staff who are already working until midnight,” she said.
This compromise was not an issue for LUSU, with Ovens adding “I suggested any extension to hours should focus around the mornings as the Learning Zone should cater for people wanting to study out of their rooms into the early hours.”
The role of the Learning Zone has been prominent in these discussions. Ms. Powne was reluctant to detract from the Zone’s usage, saying: “The Learning Zone has only been open for one and a half terms. This is the first time that there’s been any kind of facility like that open twenty-four-seven in this university. What the University would like to do is see over the course of a whole academic year what the use of the Learning Zone is like.” There will be a particular focus the use of both buildings during the exam period.
The decision is, according to Ovens, “a very positive step and shouldn’t be seen in any other light. Students have been asking for extended hours for a long time and with the support of the Library, LUSU has delivered on that request.”
He was, however, keen to emphasise the fact that this is a trial, and will only be successful if students make use of the changes. Making a personal plea, Ovens said “I have done my bit to get these hours, now the students need to use them.” Demand during these extended hours will be closely monitored, to prove that it is something students want. Ms. Powne was quick to corroborate, adding “it’s a kind of use it or lose it thing, people need to vote with their feet.”
At this stage it would seem as though student support for increased availability of the Library is high. Of the students who gave SCAN their thoughts on the matter, a good deal said that they would make use of the Library during these extra hours. One first year student, approaching his first exam period, said that although he currently uses the Library just to take out books, he could be attracted it for revision when the time comes.
It is hoped that next term’s trial will be successful enough for the new hours to be implemented annually. This, it is felt, will represent significant progress, given the regularity with which the issue seems to arise each year. However, at the moment it is unlikely that this will lead to extended hours throughout the year, as it is clear that demand for the Library peaks around exam time.
Issues of security are the main opposition to more permanent changes. Any move towards this would be more complex than asking staff to work longer hours, probably involving some form of access control as is currently in use in the Learning Zone.
Another first-year student told SCAN that although they would probably use the extra hours for ‘intense’ revision sessions, they wouldn’t welcome the security changes which would accompany any further move to round-the-clock opening. “The Library’s not needed twenty-four seven, people have the Learning Zone or their rooms to use past midnight,” he said.
Ms. Powne was, however, happy to call recent developments a “potential stepping stone” towards a more full refurbishment of the Library to make round-the-clock opening more of a possibility. “I am in the very early stages of having conversations with people within the university about a possible refurbishment of the building, a possible revitalising of the kind of service that we provide,” she said. However, she stressed that these were very preliminary discussions and realistically nothing will change for this or the next academic year.
As well as increases to the opening hours Ovens was able to describe further improvements to the library’s services. A new self-service system, not requiring a PIN, will be introduced which it is hoped will be easier to use. The former ISS service desk has been transformed into another group work room, and more and more journals and texts are being made available online for 24-hour remote access.