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Love your library

Southampton is holding a Festival of Words from 23rd October to 1st November. Sponsors include City College and Arts Council England, but neither of the city’s universities. The Phoenix Film Theatre does, however, get a credit as a “delivery partner”. Many of the events are paid access, at £5 to £10 a head. Of course, if you need free access to a festival-full of words, you go to a public library. The city council is also a delivery partner in the festival but, surprise surprise, none of the events are hosted in the libraries it is trying to close. Of these, the council owns two, including the locally-listed Cobbett Road library, which may thus be available for disposal.

For many of us academics, there is something sacred about a library; it plays the same role in a university as the cloisters of an abbey. We perform in a lecture theatre but we study, contemplate and grow in the library. The loss of one is a mark of a retreating civilisation.

Inside our university, there is also a library restructuring under way. Our restructuring is not a cut, but a change in the focus of roles, such as from subject liaison to research, or student, engagement. Such times are always worrying for colleagues. Throughout the development of these changes, our UCU library representative has been fully engaged; we have also supported individual library staff with specific issues. We think, by quietly working alongside university management, we have been able to improve the outcome for both colleagues and the institution. To make sure, we joined Unison (thank you Unison, for both the invitation and the food) in a lunchtime library meeting last week, met several existing members, and recruited another.

Denis Nicole

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† or community asset transfer.
‡ i.e. selling the family silver.

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