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Staff and students rally against controversial proposed library cuts

Tom Joyner reports.

Around fifty staff and students rallied this afternoon inside Fisher Library to protest cuts to library services proposed earlier this year under a Draft Change Proposal (DCP) that includes the potential loss of 156 jobs.

The proposed changes were first reported by Honi in March this year, after two staff unions, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), entered into a formal dispute with the university. Both have expressed their frustration of the lack of consultation over the changes.

Speakers opening the rally included current students as well as history lecturer Dr. David Brophy, who praised protesters gathered for their solidarity on the issue. “I think I can also say that if students take the lead around this issue, then staff will follow.”

Protest organiser Riki Scanlan said they were pleased with the afternoon’s efforts that saw a ‘read-in’ staged in the library’s lobby area, chants bellowed along corridors, and speakers including CPSU branch president Grant Wheeler, who emphasised the importance of staff and students being “mutually supportive”.

“I think we made it very clear to the people inside that students at the university care about our libraries,” said Scanlan, a second-year Arts student.

The protest was timed to coincide with a meeting of key staff members reportedly being held on the lower levels of Fisher library.

In an open letter from members of the NTEU, library staff criticised the proposed restructuring spearheaded by University Librarian Anne Bell as ambiguous and destructive.

“You are proposing to gut the library of its most precious resource: the experience and long institutional memory of the people who work here,” it read.

It is yet unclear how the proposed changes will affect staff in particular. A statement provided by the University Library in May said that changes would be announced properly only after current staff had been “mapped to new positions”.

“[The University Library] has also made clear that the number of full-time equivalent staff in the proposed new structure could be higher than the current number”.

Image: Tom Joyner.