University College Dublin’s Students Union (UCDSU) has criticised the University’s Management Team (UMT) for failing to provide the necessary funds to run its libraries efficiently during the pandemic. This ‘failure’ has been labelled as indicative of the ‘concerning trend’ displayed by the UMT in failing to address student’s concerns.

As a result of the ongoing nationwide Level 5 restrictions, all UCD libraries are shut with the exception of James Joyce Library, which has significantly curtailed its opening hours. Students can only access the library between 9am and 5pm on weekdays until at least 31st January.

UCDSU’s Welfare Officer, Ruairí Power, and Graduate Officer, Carla Gummerson, told The College Tribune that they have met with the Library Services Team (LST) several times to discuss opening hours and other issues. While they are confident that the LST are doing “everything they can to extend hours where possible”, they are “concerned” that they have not been provided with the required funding to hire sufficient temporary staff to return to pre-Covid opening hours.

The LST facilitated extended opening hours in the run up to the end-of-semester exams last semester. However, for the library to continue running at such capacity in the long term, significant additional investment in the library services budget is needed, which can only be provided by the UMT.

Speaking to The College Tribune, UCDSU Welfare Officer Ruairí Power has said that the Sabbatical Team wrote to the UMT before the Christmas break to request a commitment to the provision of the funds necessary to ensure this, but has not received a response. 

According to Power, the issue requires “immediate action” from University Management, as the failure to allocate funding to the LST will have a “disproportionately negative impact on the students” who do not have access to suitable study spaces at home, or poor broadband connection.

The UMT have previously decided to cut funding for support units such as the LST despite an overall budget surplus for the University. This ongoing failure to properly fund the library services, Power has said, is indicative of a concerning trend displayed by the UMT in failing to address concerns raised by student representatives.

Under current restrictions, students are required to pre-book library seats for slots up to eight-hours. The wearing of face coverings is mandatory, as is socially-distanced seating, which has reduced the library’s capacity.

UCDSU have said that if the constraints on opening hours remain in place going forward, it is their intention to launch a public campaign for adequate funding to be provided to the library services budget.

Gemma Farrell – Assistant News Editor