New librarian summons winds of change

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Photo by Elliot Westacott

Following rumours that the library was facing cuts, the University has been keen to stress that it will in fact be undergoing a number of improvements.

Clare Powne, the new Head Librarian at Lancaster’s University library recently acknowledged that there had been some hearsay regarding cuts, and consequently, staff redundancies. Whilst Powne verified that there had been some staff reductions, she maintained that they were in the interest of students’ needs: “The library is rapidly transforming from a print to a digital facility. There are more requirements for ebooks and online journals than ever before, and the library needs to adapt to these needs.”

Powne went on to say that there has been approximately a 30% decrease in borrowing of books from the library in the last six to seven years, and a short loan reduction of approximately 65%. The resources available will now change in accordance with this statistic, with the introduction of more ebooks and journals, and hiring staff with the relevant IT skills to aid the use of digital supplies. Subsequently, less clerical staff is required, in corroboration with the changing times.

Powne also commented on the introduction of the new self-service machines and acknowledges that the addition of this new equipment unfortunately coincided with the shift within staffing. Powne went on to maintain that the change in staff was “not about reduction, but about investing in the future of the library”.

When discussing this prospect, Powne said about the possibility of using Augmented Reality (AR) to aid students in finding resources in the facility. AR is the term used for a program available on a mobile phone that adapts a real-world environment to represent reality on your mobile device. Therefore, a student could use AR when struggling to find a book or journal in the library, by typing the location into their mobile device, and the program will effectively lead them to the desired location.

Powne went on to discuss the changes that are planned for the building itself, confirming that the University is at the beginning of a project to re-model the library. Currently, the University is looking into the study space a student requires, whether there is demand for increased IT facilities and the potential introduction of more power sockets to accommodate students wishing to bring laptops to the library. “These proposed changes are intended to begin immediately after exams have concluded,” Powne suggested.

Robin Hughes, LUSU’s Vice President (Academic) commented on the planned refurbishment of the library, saying: “I think a refurbishment of library facilities is welcome; the library is the heart of campus and a refurb will help ensure it doesn’t fall too far behind our more impressive new buildings. It will also help keep the library a relevant destination for students by reacting to what they want out of the space.”

Hughes went on to say that he acknowledges there is an issue with the amount of quiet space during exam season and it is viewed as a “concern”. However, Hughes suggested that the proposed changes aim to remedy this issue.

When asked about the changes that have taken place and the plans for future developments, third year Geography student Ali Corkill said: “I think that the changes in the library are definitely a good thing. The new machines save a lot of time as it means no more queuing to take books out/returning books/paying fines – all this can be done at the same time”.

Corkill added: “The possibility of more electronic resources, for example, ebooks would be brilliant as I know on my course the key text books are always in high demand, so the ability to access these online would be a great advantage”.

However not all students view the changes as positive. Lesia Strilecki, a third year Criminology student said: “I am opposed to the changes in the library and the cuts that have been made because there is no longer any interaction whatsoever with library staff when taking books out or returning them. I agree that the uploading of more ebooks is an improvement but I miss the interaction and the friendly nature of the library which has now been completely lost.”

Finally, when asked about the opening hours throughout the exam period, Powne said that “the library will be open 99 hours per week”. Following discussions with Hughes and Robbie Pickles, LUSU President, the library will now be open from 8am until midnight, Monday to Friday during Summer Term. It will be open 9am till midnight on Saturdays during that term as well.