Trinity College Dublin Postgraduate Workers’ Alliance (TCD PGWA) have called on College to change its policy towards outgoing postgraduate students concerning access to library services.
In a tweet posted on Tuesday, TCD PGWA asked College and the library to “address the issue of PhD candidates/masters students who need to do corrections after submission but are unable to access the library/withdraw books”.
They continued: “This needs to be dealt with ASAP.”
Speaking to Trinity News, History PhD student Catherine Bromhead explained that “immediately after submission [on March 31] I was no longer able to take out books from the library or request scans of journals or book chapters”.
After submission, postgraduate students who need to do minor thesis corrections have library access, but the normal borrowing rights of enrolled postgraduate students are no longer available. These students can visit the library to access open shelf materials and request books from storage, but all works may only be consulted in person.
The “scan on demand” and “book postal delivery” services that are part of the library’s response to the pandemic also appear to be unavailable to finishing postgraduate students.
Bromhead criticised the policy, explaining that: “This would mean several and frequent visits during a global pandemic and where most students are still waiting for vaccines.”
She highlighted that the time constraints exacerbated the issue. “Because I need to do corrections [within] two months from my viva report… this is really awful.”
Bromhead, who has a disability, also said that “physically visiting the library constantly is difficult for me at the best of times”.
“Doing this now when I have to be careful not to get Covid is even worse.”
According to its website, “the Library is committed to providing an inclusive library environment so that all readers have complete and equitable access to the entire Library service”.
The library provides “a number of supports” to students registered with the College Disability Service. However, it is unclear if these have been updated to account for the impact of Covid on disabled postgraduate students, to accommodate those at-risk or self-isolating who cannot access the library in person.
While Bromhead is resident in Dublin, she noted the difficulties for submitted postgraduate students who are no longer in Ireland and cannot physically access the library. “When I submitted my PhD thesis, I was told I did not have to be in Ireland for my viva… but if I wasn’t, what would my options be?”, she asked.
Yesterday, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) president Eoin Hand replied to TCD PGWA’s tweet, saying: “I’ve spoken to Library Management who have confirmed that they are working on resolving this issue.”
Speaking to Trinity News, Hand said that Library management are “working closely with the Academic Registry on this matter”, and both are “acutely aware of the situation and are doing their best to resolve the issue ASAP”.
Hand explained that there is no policy blocking postgraduate students’ access to do corrections, but “the issue is to do with their accounts expiring and it being difficult to put in place an alternative due to Covid restrictions”.
Amidst calls for a prompt solution, TCD PGWA added: “We’ll keep on top of it and try to make sure there is some proposal by the end of this week.”
“It has to be sorted immediately, no one should have to be delayed by this,” they added.
Speaking to Trinity News, a spokesperson for the library said: “In order to avail of the full range of University services, including the ability to borrow Library materials, staff and students must be registered and active on University systems.”
“The Library has no role in setting expiry dates and therefore no role in granting access to such services”, they continued.
The spokesperson highlighted the library’s accommodations for submitted postgraduate students: “For students who defer their exams, go ‘off books’ or who are working on corrections, the Library has always put in place measures to ensure they can continue to physically access Library buildings and request materials from storage for consultation”.
Citing the necessity of a booking system for contact tracing, they explained: “This is now more complicated than it used to be due to Covid-19 public health guidelines, …but the Library makes every effort to facilitate students in this position.”
The spokesperson said that “if such students need to borrow materials … we generally encourage them to speak to their tutors or academic department to explore options for reactivating their University accounts”.
This article was updated on June 25 at 3pm to include comment from the library, and to correct a reference to the library’s policy towards postgraduate students. In fact, the library does not decide when postgraduate students’ accounts expire.