Downgrading Irish University Libraries

I have noted previously the hollowing out of the academic sector in the non replacement of professors who have left the Irish univeristies.  Now we also see this in action in the university library sectors.

Courtsey of Deputy Peter Mathews who solicited these data via a PQ we see in the first table the number of persons by grade by university who have left that university library since 2009. The second table shows the replacements. What do we learn from this?

First, there are a bewildering array of grades in the irish university library system. I understand that there is a table of equivalencies somewhere.  Some rationality might be usefully brought to bear on this. Even within the old NUI system there are clear differences as to grade nomenclature. This may seem petty but the more opaqueness there is the easier it is to hide change.

Second, we see a tendancy for little replacement in the larger university libraries. These are the larger but then they are also the ones that support Irelands research intensive universities. But that support must now be creaking.

University libraries are not in general the physical books at this stage. They are the core nodes for the organisation and distribution of research knowledge. In a very real sense a university is its library, its information holdings that are accessible for knowledge creation and dissemination  If we do not have  sufficient, or sufficient qualified professional staff to assist in the collation, organisation, dissemination and retrival of information we cannot do research. There is another story to be told on the holdings of journals and databases in Irish universities  but for now we are pretty well situated. But if we cant find them or the students cant find them, or researchers cant find them, then they are no use. There is little point in Sean Sherlock unveiling hundreds of millions of research grants, no matter how welcome they are, if over the course of the grant the ability of the researchers to access the frontier of knowledge is degraded.

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10 thoughts on “Downgrading Irish University Libraries

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Downgrading Irish University Libraries

  2. gmcmahon

    It might be worth teasing out the professional grades in these tables to highlight library staff who interact directly with faculty supporting the teaching functions (largely undergraduate education) and the broad sweep of research support. These would be: Assistant librarian, Assistant librarian 2, Assistant librarian 1, Keeper, Archivist, Project Librarian, Sub Librarian, Librarian.

    The three Assistant Librarian grades support the core functions of the academic library: bibliographic services, subject support and liaison and library systems support. Assistant Librarian grades in bibliographic services and library systems support tend to develop specific technical skills around data creation and resource management which are fluid and complimentary. Liaison and subject support librarians interact directly with Schools to support teaching and research functions by directly communicating service needs to library management. Many of these librarians will have a subject speciality.

    Keeper, Sub-librarian fulfil the senior management roles within the library hierarchy often with a financial independence appropriate to direct HR and resource management responsibilities. The Librarian or Director of Library Services will head up the team comprised of these senior librarians and often supported by a Deputy Librarian (not listed) to manage the library.

  3. Monica Crump

    While the staffing in University Libraries has indeed reduced, the situation is not as dire as the table totals indicate. The totals on the table for Replacements are incorrect as they have omitted the top two rows of the table! So for example, UL have recruited 8 not 3 and NUI Galway have recruited 6 not 2.

      1. Niamh

        Very interesting and valuable data and a most insightful commentary, Brian – well done! Re. Monica’s comment above: I don’t think she means that the data are incorrect. She’s referring to the difference between the figures presented on the Replacements table for UL and NUIG and the totals at the bottom of the same table. Eg. the Replacements table under UL shows : Library Assistant 1 (x4) + Assistant Librarian (x1) + Library Attendant (x2) + Sublibrarian (x1). 4+1+2+1 should amount to a total of 8 replacements (and not 3, as shown in the Total row for UL). The same issue occurs for NUI G totals on this table. The total for each of the other institutions corresponds correctly with the figures in the rows above.

  4. Delarivier

    The library staffing is one aspect of the issue. The other aspect is the actual holdings themselves and access to online resources, such as books and journals, that support both research and teaching activities. Scientific researchers require access to up to date information. Many of us find that we either have to pay about €30 out of our own personal resources to access a publication that we need quickly, or else persuade a colleague working in a foreign university to acquire it and send it on. Many scientific and medical journals that were previously available through IREL are now unaffordable and are behind a paywall. While open access sources are proliferating, not all journals are equally well regarded (some are top class like the Biomed Central journals, but there are some predatory publishing companies out there) and many researchers don’t have the €1000 or more required to publish in an open access journal.

    Furthermore, international accreditation of professional programmes in particular disciplines requires adequate access to library facilities and electronic resources. When this falls below levels deemed necessary, international accreditation may be withdrawn for some Irish university courses. This is likely to have a severe negative impact on numbers of international students coming to Ireland to study these disciplines, and affect the career prospects of Irish graduates wishing to work in some other countries (e.g. the US). It need hardly be stated that foreign students provide a source of revenue not just for universities, but for the country at large, making this a very significant issue indeed.

  5. Pingback: STEM and HSS journal cuts in Irish University Libraries | Brian M. Lucey

  6. Pingback: STEM and HSS Journals, the Smart Economy and all that | Irish Business Blog

  7. Aoife

    This type of ‘downgrading’ extends to the health library sector in Ireland. Since 2006, the Health services has lost over one third of its library staff and this number is decreasing. There has been precisely zero replacements in line with the public sector moritiorium. This is not just a downgrading but rather a potential wipe out of a professional group in a very specialised area. Healthcare after all, relies on evidence based practice. Health Librarians are a valued group as research ( recently showed, but current economic & political conditions will impede progress and make a skills gap an inevitable outcome.


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