UCD Library requires extra €200,000 to resume full operating hours

Image Credit: Dominic Daly

UCD Library requires an additional €200,000 to resume full operating hours, The University Observer has learned.

The number is the estimate currently circulating among staff familiar with UCD library’s budget. When asked if UCDSU had seen this figure, UCDSU Welfare Officer Ruairí Power stated: “The €200,000 figure is a rough estimate that was provided to us by the UCD Library team upon request”. In a request for comment, The University Observer asked UCD if the provision of the extra monies had been discussed by the University Management Team (UMT) or other senior bodies, given the €11 million extra revenue from fees made by UCD and reported by The Times last year. UCD did not reply to the email.

Pre-Covid, the James Joyce Library was open for 93 hours a week. Last Trimester, it was open for 57.5 hours a week. It is currently open for 40 hours a week. With current budgetary cuts, it is understood that when lockdown and social distancing are eased, UCD libraries may still struggle to resume the service hours that excited pre-Covid.

It is understood that funding for the library services is a perennial issue, as the library budget has not returned to pre-2008 levels, despite UCD revenue surpassing pre-2008 levels. The library budget and five-year financial plan show that in 2020/2021 UCD library is taking a 21% reduction in resources when compared to 2019/2020, but by 2024/2025 there will only be an 11% reduction compared to 2019/2020. UCD Library is budgeted to spend €6,121,000 on pay this year, €883,000 on Operations, and €2,398,000 on resources. Library income is budgeted to be €213,000 this year, down from €916,000 last year. Library income is separate to capital provided by the university and refers to money made through late fees, for example.

The University Management Team Library Strategy Group (UMT LSG), which “provides high-level oversight of the planning for the development of UCD Library...advises on prioritisation, budgetary requirements and effective resourcing” have so far met once this academic year, on the 14th December. Sources familiar with the content of the meeting have said that lobbying UMT for extra funds was the major issue discussed. The group consists of the Deputy President and Registrar or their nominee, the VP Research Innovation and Impact or their nominee, the Librarian, a College Principal, four faculty members within UCD, and a Student Union Representative nominated by the President of UCDSU. Currently the membership is not published on the UCD website, and the page for the UMT LSG has not been updated since 2019. UCD did not reply to a request for comment as to why this information is currently unavailable. 

The five Sabbatical officers of UCDSU have so far sent two letters to UCD outlining their stance on library funding, one to Registrar Mark Rogers on 18/12/2020, and one to the entirety of UMT on 18/01/2021. They are yet to receive a response. The University Observer requested comment on why UCDSU had not received a response from either Rogers or UMT. This request was not responded to.

In a statement to The University Observer, Power stated “We have not received a full response to either of these letters to date and are concerned with the lack of urgency to resolve the issue which the UMT have demonstrated. Our understanding is that Covid restrictions have contributed to staffing issues in the short run due to the necessity of working in pods, further compounded by budget cuts which diminish the ability to hire the required temporary staff. It is imperative that the UMT provide the necessary funds to hire more temporary staff to restore weekend opening hours in the immediate future, as students without access to suitable study space at home and students from rural Ireland with poor broadband connection are seriously disadvantaged by the lack of weekend opening hours. We have called for a sustainable funding model to be established in order to continue pre-Covid levels of service provision in the long run”.

UCD did not provide any comment.