Save library services, save jobs

Saturday, May 17, 2014
A new plan will radically alter access to library services for both staff and students.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has launched a petition as part of a campaign to save library services at the University of Sydney.

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The university library management has announced a major restructure that will have serious implications for library users and staff, including the potential loss of up to 130 staff.  

The Draft Change Proposal (DCP) issued by library management is vague and provides very little detail — a trend that the union is challenging across the board at the university. NTEU has initiated a dispute under the consultation requirement of the managing change clause of the enterprise agreement with relation to the library change proposal.

Library staff are concerned that the DCP gives very little information about total job losses, the nature of changes to the provision of library services, and the nature and scope of changes to positions and working conditions.

At this stage what we do know about the proposal, from statements by library management, is that it will radically alter access to library services for both staff and students. The proposal is for Badham Library to be converted into a postgraduate space with no collection, no staff onsite, and no undergraduate access.

Similarly, the Medical Library at Bosch is to be turned into a research-focused space with no collection, no staff onsite, and no undergraduate access. Camden Library and the Dentistry Library will become 24-hour access with no staff and will instead have a book vending machine, and one floor of Fisher Library will have 24-hour access computers, but there will be no staff and no access to books outside core hours.

The proposal threatens to undermine the heart and soul of the libraries. It has major implications for library services, job security and workloads. Student numbers are increasing, yet the plan will see some libraries closed to undergraduate students and be unstaffed.

The NTEU is concerned the DCP will be used to cut library staff numbers which could have a direct impact on user services.   Library staff were told that only 40% of existing jobs would be secure. Given the lack of a business case for the proposed change, it isn’t surprising there is no indication how the success of the restructure will be measured 

This has major implications for services, job security and workloads. With an increase to 24 hours, 7 days a week access, how will the safety of staff and students be ensured?

Thanks to the challenge we have already issued to university management, including taking the university to Fair Work Australia, there has been a release of more details of the change plan, and this has confirmed that many library jobs are at risk. Management still has not said how many jobs will go because it claims it still has not undertaken a business plan for the change.

In negotiations with management, we have also had a commitment that senior management will provide some support to the library manager so she better understands the university’s obligations under the enterprise bargaining agreement.

Library staff and the NTEU have organised a petition, appealing to the vice-chancellor for adequately detailed information about the DCP, and a solid assessment of whether the changes will prevent library services from effectively meeting the needs of its users.

Concerned about the changes? Click here to sign the petition.]

From GLW issue 1009