‘Cramped, inflexible and uncomfortable… our students deserve better’

Majority of students surveyed comment negatively about condition of NUI Galway library, writes student Áine Kenny.

An expensive feasibility study in 2014 produced a detailed plan for transforming the library building. It estimated the transformation would cost NUI Galway €25 million.

An expensive feasibility study in 2014 produced a detailed plan for transforming the library building. It estimated the transformation would cost NUI Galway €25 million.

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Students at NUI Galway have called for improved facilties at the university’s James Hardiman Library.

While some improvements have been made recently (see here), six Irish universities have made significant investments of at least €20 million in the past ten years to modernise their library buildings, by either extending or replacing them.

In its annual LibQual survey, 85 per cent of the comments about the library’s physical environment were negative. University Librarian, John Cox, is advocating for more investment.

“The current main library building dates from 1973 and was extended three times between then and 1999,” he said.

“Newer university libraries facilitate collaborative project work, creating objects with 3-D printers, practice with giving presentations, and brainstorming ideas across disciplines.”

While the library contents and library staff rate well, some 85 per cent of the comments about the physical environment were negative.

Examples included concerns raised about air conditioning and the lack of electrical points plugs.

One contributor said the library was “a big let-down compared to the library in UCC” .

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Other comments included calls for “chill-out” spaces and additional space for group work and computer facilities.

Jane Finn, a final year Arts with Human Rights student, says something needs to be done.

“The desks are badly laid out, and they are old, so at incorrect heights for using a laptop. Its no wonder our postures are so bad,” she said.

“It can also be stuffy, and very cold if it is empty. Some natural lighting would be nice also.”

“There aren’t enough group study rooms. I had to practice a group presentation, and we met in an empty lecture hall because that’s all we could find.”

“There is also a shortage of plug sockets, and bathrooms as well.”

Ms Finn says she thinks the reason why the library has not been invested in is because it doesn’t yield an immediate return. “The type of subjects studied in the library, like Arts, doesn’t make money, unlike research. There are new buildings on campus, like the Human Biology Building… but I can’t get the use out of them.”

An expensive feasibility study in 2014 produced a detailed plan for transforming the building. It estimated the transformation would cost NUI Galway €25 million.

So far, the college has not acted upon these detailed plans.

“Possibly the scale of the investment required has proved daunting, although similar sums have been found for other buildings,” Mr Cox says.

“[The lack of action] is in spite of ongoing advocacy and the clear inadequacy of the current building to meet student needs. We have fallen well behind what is on offer elsewhere, and our students should expect better.”

NUI Galway’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, says that the reason why the library has not been invested in is because “we have not yet identified a source for the €30 million plus in funding that we need.”

“We did highlight it as one of our top two priorities in a submission to the Higher Education Authority in January 2017 in response to a request from the HEA for information on capital requirements in HEIs, but as yet we have not had any funding released.”

Áine Kenny is editor of SIN (sin.ie), NUI Galway’s fortnightly student newspaper.

How good is your college library? Is it well-organised and accessible? Does it offer students a space that is functional, easy to use and is safe and secure? Click here for more.

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