Fisher Library has granted USyd students access to 24-hour study spaces for the first time this week, in the first in a series of controversial proposed changes to USyd libraries this year.
Students are now able to use computers and group study spaces in the USyd’s main library after hours, but will not have access to book stacks at these times due to cost and security concerns.
University Librarian Anne Bell has been working to allow students 24 hour access to the spaces since she took up her post in 2011.
“Nowadays most Sydney University students have to work to support themselves or go on work experience placements during the day, so the ability to access study resources after hours is becoming increasingly important,” she said earlier this year.
The promise to provide 24-hour study spaces has been a hallmark of student political campaigns for years.
“After years of wrangling, I’m pleased that a 24-hour section will be opening at Fisher for the first time. I hope that we can eventually get the whole library and stack open too, but it’s a good start,” wrote Undergraduate Senate Fellow Patrick Massarani on Wednesday.
Former SRC President Elly Howse campaigned for 24-hour study spaces in 2010, but said she is now unsure about whether she had done the right thing.
“I think there’s a growing culture where students feel as though it’s expected that they’ll study for eight hours at a time until two in the morning, and that’s something that really worries me,” she said.
Howse, who now runs the Healthy Sydney University project, said that she had concerns about the health of students who regularly studied late into the night.
“Not only do you not actually learn anything if you’re not getting enough sleep, there’s a very direct, proven link between disrupted sleep patterns and mental and physical health problems.”
She said she hoped the University would encourage students to use the 24-hour spaces on an occasional basis only, and emphasise that it did not expect students to study late into the night regularly.
Meanwhile, the National Tertiary Education Union is continuing its dispute with the University over several other proposed changes to the University Library System.
A Draft Change Proposal issued earlier this year suggests that libraries on several satellite campuses be converted into “self-access libraries” without permanent staff by early 2015, with the Badham and Medical library on the Camperdown/Darlington campus becoming dedicated postgraduate study spaces.
The NTEU is concerned that these changes jeopardise up to 130 current positions.
“Staff morale is at an all-time low as employees face uncertainty over their futures, having also witnessed the extensive use of natural attrition by University management over the past three years to save costs, despite student numbers rising substantially over the same period,” said USyd NTEU Branch President Michael Thomson.
In a petition released on Thursday, the NTEU calls upon the Vice Chancellor to release more detailed information about the nature and scope of changes to library staff and services.
The petition has already been signed by novelists David Malouf and Kristen Tranter, as well as Greens MP Jamie Parker
The NTEU are holding a rally to protest the changes on Wednesday, August 13.
For further coverage of the dispute over library changes, keep following honisoit.com