University announces library consolidation

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon today announced the outcome of the recent Review of Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon today announced the outcome of the recent Review of Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland.

Among other decisions, the consolidation of the three Creative Arts and Industry (CAI) libraries (Elam Fine Arts, Music and Dance, and Architecture and Planning) into the General Library, was confirmed. Professor McCutcheon noted that while it was likely that this outcome of the Review would receive the most attention, he hoped that members of the University community and outside parties would bear in mind that the outcome of the review will affect people’s jobs, and that the process would be treated with respect. The Review of Libraries and Learning Services involved a consultation period from 27 March to 30 April, with a total of 250 submissions received and considered by a Review Committee comprising senior academic and professional staff from across the University.

Taking these submissions and the Review Committee’s recommendations into account, the Vice-Chancellor said that the University will adopt the proposed service delivery model. This will see a reduction of some 45 staff Full Time Equivalents (FTE) and moving the CAI collections into the General Library.

Professor McCutcheon said that the savings will amount to several million dollars that would be available for reinvestment into academic activities.

“The initial Proposal for Change attracted a great deal of attention and misinformation. I need to make it very clear that we highly value our Arts/Performing Arts disciplines and our library materials. However the financial situation of the university requires us to make difficult choices.”

“By way of background it should be noted that for more than 20 years successive governments (on both sides of the House) have favoured policies that reduce the cost of university study to students and government, over policies that enhance the quality of universities,” he said. “As a consequence, New Zealand’s universities have among the lowest levels of income per student in the developed world.

“We could deal with this by increasing class sizes (i.e. student:staff ratios) but that would reduce the quality of our teaching and lower our international rankings. The only alternative approach, and the one we have adopted, is to reduce costs of support services. The library system is one of these.”


We highly value our libraries and acknowledge the role played by Library Services that sit at the heart of the University

Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon

The University of Auckland benchmarks administrative costs against a group of more than 35 universities in New Zealand and Australia, and the Vice-Chancellor says that its library system is among the most expensive (relative to size) in that group. The principal reason is that the operation of multiple library sites; most others in the group have already consolidated libraries.“We also have a responsibility to respond to the changes in the way students learn (particularly the huge increase in the use of on-line material); we need to lead and deliver in a dynamic digital environment,” he says.

“There is already a major shift to digital access of the library collection, creating a further reason to revise our approach to the provision of services.Professor McCutcheon says that earlier reports of the university indiscriminately destroying, or even burning, books, were totally unfounded and there is absolutely no suggestion that this will be part of the process around the collections being moved.

“We will continue with the current practice of retaining high-demand items in the Library and holding infrequently-used items in storage where they are available at 24 hours’ notice. We envisage the CAI collections will be grouped closely together in the General Library together to provide a collegial study space – although details of this are still being worked out. Any removal of books will be done as part of the standard library practice of removing material that is damaged, unnecessarily duplicated, or significantly out of date. This is just a part of how libraries operate.”  

The storage space at Tamaki currently holds 700,000 items but has a capacity for two million.The Vice-Chancellor said the specialist discipline expertise (staff) will be retained, ample space will be made in the General Library to accommodate the CAI collections and appropriate study spaces, and that additionally the General Library is open 96 hours per week opposed to the 55-58 hours of the current CAI libraries.As a follow up to the process, the Dean of CAI will meet with faculty staff and students to discuss how the spaces released by moving the specialist libraries might best be used to support academic and student-related activities, he said.

Professor McCutcheon said that he understood the emotional attachment current and former staff and students had to the CAI spaces, but that while in a perfectly funded world all faculties might have their own libraries, it just wasn’t possible.

“The University of Auckland values the Creative Arts and Industries, and we work hard to ensure that students and academics from its Schools are supported with the best facilities we can provide. We highly value our libraries and acknowledge the role played by Library Services that sit at the heart of the university.

We value books and the importance of ‘touch and feel’ in many disciplines, but also know that students are increasing choosing digital study options.“And we have a responsibility to the University community and its funders to be financially viable, responsive to changes in teaching, learning and research, and continuously striving to be world class.”

For further information

Lisa Finucane
Media and Communications Manager
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