Proposed changes to library staffed services a ‘retrograde step’, says SRC President



Fraser McGowan

The president of the Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council has said that a proposal to reduce the number of hours that the library offers staffed services is a “retrograde step” that will limit access to facilities and services in the library.

He told The Glasgow Guardian: “Proposed changes to the staffing hours of the library is a retrograde step. Students want more access to facilities and services not less. We have been making representations to university authorities however it is becoming clear that a wider campaign will be needed if we are to halt this ridiculous decision”.

Library management have tabled proposals to reduce the number of hours when the library offers staffed services, changes which could lead to a number of shifts being “made redundant”.

The initial proposal was to reduce the number of hours that staff services are available at the main library, with the intention of making it entirely self-service after 6pm on weekdays and after 5pm at weekends.

This proposal would have reduced the number of three-hour shifts available to staff, resulting in the loss of up to 36 three-hour shifts a week – the equivalent of six full-time positions. After negotiations with staff and trade union representatives, however, this proposal has since been revised by library management, but it is unclear what concessions have been made.

Currently, staffed services open at 9am and close at 8pm on weekdays during the semester. At weekends, staffed services open at 1pm and close at 5pm. If accepted, the proposed changes would mean that staffed services would close at 6pm on weekdays, resulting in an additional “two hours of self-service [per day] during semester”. At weekends, the library management have proposed keeping “the existing hours of 1-5pm but replacing the existing team with a new team of 3 Troubleshooters on each shift with a total 6 shifts per week”.

Currently, evening and weekend services involve “most staff” working one three-hour shift a week, shifts which would be “made redundant” if these proposals are accepted.

There are concerns among library staff that the proposed changes will “leave the library service stretched” and will adversely affect distance learners, part-time students, and international students in particular.

Library staff have reportedly identified several key issues that will arise if the proposals are accepted, including a large backlog of library stock on most floors of the library.

Margaret McParland, who is the Unison branch secretary for Glasgow University, told The Glasgow Guardian: “I can confirm that there has been recent consultation between Unison, Unite and Library Management over service delivery on evenings and weekends in the Main Library. The challenge is to ensure that we reward the hard work and commitment of our existing staff and to protect our members’ jobs.

“We are at a crucial stage in the negotiations and discussions are ongoing between the Unions and University Management. The Library Management have listened to our concerns and have made an alternative proposal which is now the subject of ongoing consultation.

“We have forwarded the new proposal to our members and are awaiting their response. We hope to achieve a result that is acceptable to our members and, hopefully, will deliver a level of service that is not detrimental to the student experience.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: ‘The Library has proposed a new model for supporting Library users, particularly in the evening. This is due to a decline in the level of transactions that happen after 6pm and the desire to provide a consistent level of service throughout the year. The proposed new model is to offer staffed services until 6pm every day, including during vacation (services currently end at 5pm). This means that students and other Library users can expect the same staffed service hours and levels of service every day that the Library is open and that we are better able to support international students who are on campus during vacations.

“The proposed changes would mean an increase of two hours of self-service [per day] during semester and a decrease of one hour of self-service during vacation. The current evening evening/weekend service operates with most staff working one three hour shift a week. These shifts would be made redundant and the University is working with the campus Trade Unions to mitigate the effect on the staff involved”.