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Bangor library cuts will affect support and undermine mission, says AUT

31 January 2005

Plans by the University of Wales, Bangor, to make redundant 8 professional librarians in an attempt to create income for, among other things, the research assessment exercise (RAE), have today been met with hostility by the employees union, the AUT.

Senior managers at the university contend that face to face library support for students should come to an end, with effectively no professional support or guidance for undergraduate and postgraduate students in their research.

The university plans to cut library service provision to students and academic staff as a result of the funding crisis in higher education in Wales, the need to raise funds for the Research Assessment Exercise and the potential impact of top-up fees and variable fees on student recruitment in Wales.

This move will require students to accept an unsatisfactory level of service from the library, which has already seen cuts imposed over previous years.

Further, the plans, if implemented, will result in academics (who currently work at a professional level with subject librarians in the provision of curricula) taking on much of the core work that is the normal repository of library staff. This will add to their already extensive workload and may bring the university into conflict with Health and Safety at Work regulations.

Mark Oley, regional support officer for the AUT in Wales said: 'The proposals, if implemented as currently described, will mean that the quality of the provision of services, a requirement under the QAA and HEFCW regulations, will certainly be questionable. This will directly impact on students and academic staff who will face the main knock-on of such a radical restructuring.

'The proposals also entail cutting service provision to "hard to reach" students. This, in and of itself, works directly against the National Assembly’s higher education strategy "Reaching Higher". For the university to propose these cuts means that its mission to build a sustainable community of such students will be significantly compromised.'

Significant student groups who require and use the specialist services provided by the staff affected would be international students and Bangor’s large mature student population.
It became clear during discussions with the university that the proposals received no support from library professionals.

The local association of the AUT at Bangor is already receiving large volumes of e-mails and correspondence from concerned universities across the UK and internationally. The library staffs’ own professional association, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), is also due to discuss the cuts next week.

Professional librarians provide a range of services to students and staff at Universities across Wales and the UK. Such work includes:

  • Training students to use printed and electronic sources of information in a critical and evaluative manner.

  • Providing a liaison service with academic staff in their teaching, research and curricula development.

  • Exploiting technology to facilitate access to the ever-expanding and increasingly complex body of information required by staff and students.
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