Union warns of precarious Library hours

Sunday library openings are under review once again and the Students’ Union has warned that “there is a chance that this service will be pulled” if it is not made use of.  Education Officer Ashley Cooke hails the scheme as an opportunity to show the College that Sunday openings are an indispensible service by “their own definition”.
The number of visitors entering the Library each day is being monitored over a six week period which started at the beginning of March.  The Students’ Union hopes that the data collected will indicate it is viable for Trinity Library to continue opening on Sundays.
Some students have been advised by their Class Representatives to avail of Sunday openings as much as possible over the coming weeks if they want the service to continue. Senior Freshman History students were advised to “try and use it so that we don’t lose it”.
The investigation resulted from an agreement between the Provost and the Students’ Union to compare library usage on Sundays with every other day in the week. Previous investigations have only looked at Sunday attendance figures on their own.
Ashley Cooke told Trinity News that “so far”, when shorter weekend opening hours are taken into account, not every day in the week has significantly outperformed Sunday levels of attendance.  “Sundays are low but so are all the other days,” he said, also claiming that, in some cases, library attendance has been higher on Sundays than on Saturdays.
The Library, though, was unable to release attendance figures at the time of publication.
Although the Students’ Union hopes to demonstrate that Sunday library openings are not a dispensable service, the Library has not agreed to a benchmark for library attendance which would secure the status of Sunday openings if achieved.
Deputy Librarian Jessie Kurtz explained, “we felt we couldn’t come up with a percentage [of attendance which would lead to a commitment to opening on Sundays]”.
Sunday openings have “always been a trial run” says Cooke, who aims to permanently secure Sunday library access for students. Although College is currently committed to opening the Hamilton and BLU Libraries on Sundays in the run up to end-of-year examinations, Cooke makes the case for also opening the Library on Sundays throughout the academic year, especially in the approach to January scholarship examinations.
Cooke says Sunday opening is not an underused service but asserts College should provide for the “particular need” of students who want to use the Library on Sundays, even if they form a minority.  He cites Sunday openings and 24-hour study access as examples of how students should be allowed to choose when they study.
Cooke expects the number of those using the Library on Sundays to increase. “You can’t just expect students to start using it right away,” he explains, anticipating that study patterns will change as more students get used to the new service.
Whilst Cooke argues access to library facilities on Sundays is a core service for students, he points out faculty members and visiting readers are less likely to use this service at the weekend, causing student attendance to appear lower. The turnstile system which counts how many people enter and exit the Library does not distinguish between students, staff and visiting readers.
Dr. Jack McGinley, SIPTU representative at College, says he supports the allocation of library resources towards services that benefit Trinity students and staff, rather than outside readers.  He points out all Library staff working on Sundays have volunteered to do so, adding: “We’ve all been students in our own days.”
Cooke identifies the tendency of students to enter the Library several times during a weekday, between lectures and seminars, but only once at the weekend, as another factor which downplays the value of Sunday opening hours.
Negotiations about the viability of Sunday library openings continue at a committee meeting attended by the Vice Provost and representatives from the Students’ Union, Graduate Students’ Union and the Library.