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Lancaster University Library is currently consulting its users about its forthcoming redevelopment. The library appears very keen to hear our views about this redevelopment and has set-up a facility for us to vote for which features we are either for or against. Those who enter the library are welcomed by a large board which outlines several options, such as soft seats, extra group study rooms and quick printing facilities. Green and red sticky dots are provided for us to inform how we feel about these options.
If we take the proliferation of sticky dots on the large board as a barometer of our willingness to vote on the ways in which things are run, people generally appear positive about this. Whilst I did not stand there and count every sticky dot on the board, it would seem that well over a hundred people have voted. The library should clearly be congratulated on this endeavour. Someone of a more critical ilk might suggest that seeing as green sticky dots predominate, we as a collective body wish to have all of these options come to fruition and in so doing want to have our cake and eat it too.
But why does the library stop here? Why are we only allowed to vote on what are relatively cosmetic changes? While it is nice that we can have our say about soft seats, why can we not vote about how any library fines that we may incur are spent? Why could we not vote about the redundancy programme that has stripped the library of many of those people who have kindly assisted me? What about the exorbitant sums the library pays the commercial companies that provide our (often bundled) journal subscriptions? These feral publishers make huge profits for very little work. To simplify an inherently complex situation: academics receive their pay from universities but write, edit and review for these feral publishers for free, yet universities pay them vast sums to subscribe to ‘their’ journals.
Personally, I would prefer it if Lancaster University were a more democratic institution. I would like to vote on a whole range of issues. Perhaps one of my largest gripes with the University is its investment policy. I am not really keen with the way in which the University is funding BAE. I would also like to see the wages of my lecturers improved so that they are commensurate with their qualifications and experience. I could go on… But I do not want this to degenerate in to a rant so I will end with an open question: why am I allowed to vote about soft seats in the library but not about those things at Lancaster University that truly matter to me?