King’s on the verge of library revolution

PLANS are afoot to revolutionise library opening hours at King’s College London. Representatives from KCLSU, including President Thomas Clayton, are currently in talks with College bosses to extend services at the Strand, Waterloo and Guy’s libraries.

This comes as universities across the country are tightening their purses in response to higher education cuts, including library provisions. However, in his research on services nationwide, Clayton found that King’s opening hours were well behind its competitors.

A petition was set up by the union and gained three hundred signatures in its first couple of days, eventually reaching a staggering 1,500 names.

Clayton said: “We were astonished with the response that the campaign got, it seems that the student body was close to unilateral in its desire for extended opening hours and societies and individuals took it upon themselves to spread the petition.”

Student feedback presented a much more complex picture of current needs than initially expected. This resulted in a nuanced presentation of views and data, which the principal has received with interest.

“We found that students particularly wanted longer hours on the weekends and during holidays, we also found that there was genuine dismay that there was no 24/7 opening during the January exam period.

Similarly, New Hunts House reverted to its restricted summer holiday opening hours in the first week of June, despite the fact that the majority of Medicine and Dentistry students have exams well into July.

We also found that many students couldn’t work during the day, whether that was because of lectures, part time work, the need to care for children, or even simply because they work best at night.”

Clayton and his cohorts are now working with the College to implement changes beneficial to all students. The negotiations are being treated with a sense of urgency and the new policy will be put into practice as soon as possible.

“Thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign, especially to all the officers who spent many late nights working on the petition and the report. And of course do use the extended hours when they do come, to show the College that it was worth the investment.”

This news has been met with both relief and exasperation at the pace at which the College and the union operate. One student commented: “It’s about bloody time. I don’t understand why this hasn’t been done earlier.”

When asked how the negotiations were going, Clayton responded positively, with an aphorism that will spark hope in any student wishing for longer library hours: “What’s clear is that change is going to happen.”

KCLSU Vice President for Student Media and Engagement Charlotte Richardson commented: “I am very happy that our proposal was well received by the Principal. The officers and I put lots of working in putting the proposal together, researching the situations at other institutions and reaching out to get student feedback and support. As some students may be aware, the officers have two ‘priority campaigns’. This year, we decided to campaign towards Demo 2012 and We Want Our Wednesdays.

However, spurred on by Rant Week and speaking to students on a regular basis, we realised we had a responsibility as officers to use our influence to put something formal for the Principal and College to react to.

The figures and graphs all speak for themselves; we are miles behind and it’s simply not good enough. Other Russell Group and ULU institutes have 24 hour libraries and for a university that prides itself on such prestigious academic excellence to fail to provide students with proper provision is unacceptable.

Degrees are hard. Studying is tough. Revision is draining. The worry and strain students shared with me when discussing access to libraries was actually very distressing. In my opinion, a student should not have to rush from their 9-5 weekend job just to get to the library before it shuts at 6. Students should never be put in the position where they cannot get access to a computer, a textbook or a quiet space to work in.

I’m proud our proposal has struck a nerve with the College and pleased with how well they’ve responded to us and how willing they are to work on this, to ensure the students have their most important win.”

You can follow Ben Jackson on Twitter at @bjacksonuk

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