Some of the responses confirmed what we already knew; others have provided us with suggestions to follow up. During Easter term Clemens and I will be blogging about the different issues that have arisen and will be sharing what we intend to do to respond to those issues. Most of those fall under the good news: collection development and different possible areas of how to improve music services is something we will be more than happy to work on.
Now for the bad news: opening times. We are very much aware that opening times are disappointing for some of you and have been for quite some time. However, opening hours are directly linked to staffing resources and in the current climate where support staff is being cut all over the university and we are struggling even to maintain our current levels of staffing, there isn’t very much we can do.
Both at the UL and the Faculty the staff–opening hour ratio is stretched to its limit, and anything extra requires significant extra funding. This means funding from “staff” pots of money, which basically don’t exist. So at the Faculty this would mean choosing between library opening times and extra teaching. I’m sure I don’t need to spell out which one is the priority. At the UL this would mean choosing between which reading rooms to staff more. Since usage statistics for music are significantly lower compared to the main reading room and some other areas, again you can imagine which choices are most likely to be made. Having our own subject reading room is quite unusual within the UL and I do believe we are quite lucky to have subject specialists and support on site. Other subjects aren’t so lucky.
So what can we do? Last year, at the Pendlebury Library, we extended our out of term opening hours to match Anderson Room opening times as closely as possible within the available staffing and contracts (which incidentally specify Saturday mornings, not afternoons). We were perhaps a little disappointed that in the survey opening times were perceived as being “the same as last year” but won’t dwell on that…
We will keep knocking on doors and keep seeking funding for invigilation. If ever we are successful, we will be in touch to see what the priorities of extended opening hours would be. At the UL we will be investigating whether we can improve procedures within the existing resources and opening times so ease of use and transparency might compensate a little for more limited staff presence. Although there is a sort of chicken and egg problem here (limited hours of access therefore lower usage statistics – lower usage statistics therefore less staffing and opening times) we would like to encourage you to keep using the Anderson Room, or, even better, use it more. Do ask us to fetch items from closed access, and do ask if you can’t find something on the catalogues. We may be busy and need some time to respond, but we genuinely are “happy to help”.