by David Wynne-Griffith
For those who don’t know, could you quickly go over the main adaptations that are being constructed through the current building work at the Library?
We are having two building adaptations taking place at the Main Library and at the Palace Green Library. The Main Library adaptation is part of the University’s Gateway project which creates an extra 600 study spaces within the Library which are obviously in rather short supply at the moment.
In the Palace Green Library, we are moving the Law and Music collections over to the Main Library as well as creating the new Wolfston Gallery which showcases many of the University treasures, some of them dating back to the Norman conquests. It’s an opportunity for both students and staff to come and observe some of the treasures that we used to have locked away in our vaults.
Why have you decided to bring back Library 24/7 this year again?
We have brought it back really because it was so popular last year. Two years ago, I looked at the National Students Survey and one of the main complaints about the Main Library was the absence of 24/7 Library services around the examination season. Students were asking why Durham didn’t provide this service when so many other universities did.
I understand that Library 24/7 will be operating for 4 weeks in 2011 rather than the 6 weeks it operated for last year? What is the reasoning behind this change?
We found last year that after the exam season actually started the usage of Library 24/7 dropped severely. We were also concerned that some students might actually stay up all night before their exam, which would drastically incapacitate their performance the next day in the exam.
The 4 week limit will also produce saving on energy costs and staff costs which is very helpful. This will allow the Library to be open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and also during the Royal Wedding.
In terms of staffing, does Library 24/7 cost a significant amount more than the normal hours that the Library opens for the rest of the year?
We don’t actually use Library staff, we simply employ security guards overnight who start at 12 and finish at 8 the next morning. They are simply there really to ensure the safety and security of the building rather than to provide any academic services.
There is also some more planned building work that will be going on over the Summer holidays, what does this entail and how will it benefit Durham students?
During the Summer, we will also be renovating Level 2 of the Main Library ahead of the next academic year starting in September. First off we introducing new access control systems, which will mean that students have to swipe in and swipe out of the Library. This will enable the Library management to accurately find out how many students are coming in and out of the Library, which courses use it more, how they long they stay for and what times of the day they come in. This will allow me to tailor my services far more effectively to suit Durham students.
There will be more communial seating and more study spaces in the new Level 2. This will also all coalesce with the new extension, directly connecting the current Level 2 with the new wing at the Main Library. This means that whatever level you are on in the existing Library, you will have access to the new levels of the extension which will hopefully be ready by March next year. The whole project is basically designed to give us more study, more computer spaces, more shelving spaces but also to allow us to pool together books that are currently stored in three different locations.
We are also hoping to remodel the Level 2 computer cluster as well.
There will also be developments at the Queen’s campus Library where more study spaces and more laptops for loan will be drafted in.
What I didn’t want is for the new extension to be compared directly to the old level 2 and the two to not really match up. Also we have had observations, which I share myself, that the computer area of Level 2 looks a bit like a call centre, with so many computers crammed into such a small space. So we want to renovate this completely, re-carpet it and put new furniture in to make that area look far more welcoming.
How is this being funded?
£9 million, part of the overall £56 million coming from the Universities Gateway Project.
There are major refurbishments going on at Level 2 of the Main Library- what is going to be changed?
There are going to be slightly more informal seating. What is called a ‘touchdown pad’ of seating as you enter the Library. We are also opening up the Cathedral Window to allow for a bit more light in the area
The moving of the Law and Music collections from the Palace Green to the Main Library seems like a good idea as many more students use that facility- is there any plan to homogenize all the library resources into one place in the future?
The Law Faculty is actually moving up to Stockton Road next year and so it makes more sense for their collection to be stored at the Main Library rather than at Palace Green.
We also know that a vast majority of Music students live up at the Hill colleges, despite the department being at Palace Green, so again it would be more useful for their collection to be at the Main Library.
Also, by moving these sections away from the Palace Green Library, it gives us the opportunity of completely redeveloping the library there over the next two years. It’s really all a bit of a Domino effect, as we move different sections around, this opens up new spaces at other areas where we can redevelop.
The two projects, both at Palace Green and on Stockton Road, are working in parallel and complimenting each other nicely.
Some students, especially doing science degrees, complain about a poor computer to student ratio in the Library? Do you feel this is fair??
We are putting another 100 PC’s going into the Main Library and we are also expanding our self-service Laptop scheme to accommodate for the rise in users, and obviously the new extension will be connected to the Wireless network.
We have not reached a tipping point yet where more students are using their laptops than ordinary Library computers, so I don’t feel it is right to not increase the computing facilities that we offer here at the Library.
Hardwire PC’s still give fast, instantaneous connection to the network which would not ordinarily be available on the Wireless network. At the end of the day, we have to strike a neat balance from year to year to meet the fast-moving targets of students.
Can you quickly outline the way in which the new ‘More Books’ service works? Do you think this system could be improved in any way to ease the pressure on books in the busy weeks before summative deadlines?
The short answer is no matter how many books we put into the Library, there will never be enough for all the students during deadline season. With the More books season, we have made available an extra £15,000 for purchasing new books. But my advice, is if you want us to buy a specific new book, tell us, don’t go complaining on a student survey. We will respond to request, tell you that we have placed the order, and reserve it for you when it comes in.
All in all, I feel that we do pretty well with supplying books. This year, we have 95% of the undergraduate reading lists here in the Library, we are one of the only University Libraries in the UK to have achieved that.
We are also buying many more copies of E-books, which can accommodate up to 6 or 7 users at any given time. It also improves what I call ‘digital literacy’.
On the whole, do you feel that Durham students respect the Library as an institution and get the most out of it as an incredibly important resource?
Yes, I feel that they do. We are one of the heaviest used buildings throughout the whole University. I’m always amazed at how many students are in the Library working. Our great challenge, is to get across our message to the new Fresher’s who come into the University as it will obviously be a critical resource during your time at University.
Is there any particular message that you would like to send out to Durham students via Palatinate?
Value your library. Use your library and more importantly respect the needs of other people who use the Library. Get across to the Wolfeston gallery, as you will get in for free with your Campus Card.