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April 30, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Fine Arts Library Closure

The proposal to close the University of Auckland’s specialist libraries pertaining to fine arts, architecture, music, and dance sparked outrage among the public this week.

The closure of Elam’s fine arts library has drawn particular controversy. The library has been operating since 1950, where it began from a small collection of books and has now become the largest fine arts library in the Southern Hemisphere, with 50,000 books as well as photo books and manuscripts.

The decision to combine the libraries has come as a shock to Elam students, with the student associations Vice President Olyvia Hong saying, “it was very sly, and they didn’t publicise it. I found out through the Herald. I had no idea this was happening”.

If the closure goes ahead, the fine arts library, along with the architecture library, and the library of music and dance will be merged into the University of Auckland’s  general library. Much of Elam’s library will be lost to offsite storage, meaning that in order to gain access to books, students will need to request them specifically, which adds a longer wait period to access resources. This wait time could be up to 24 hours according to Lisa Finucane, a spokesperson for the university.

Finucane said that there were “bigger-picture considerations that students would not necessarily have on their radar”.

The closure of the library has sparked fears among some staff that lesser used books will be incinerated. The process of book-burning is associated with authoritarian regimes and dictatorships. However, a spokesperson for the University of Auckland said that the books would be “primarily relocated to the relevant library, or into storage”, rather than burnt.

Decline in government funding has already lead to budget cuts and job losses at the University of Auckland. The budget cuts are hitting degrees with lower enrolment numbers more severely, with arts and education suffering the most. 45 jobs have been cut just this year, with more expected. However, subjects like engineering have remained stable, with potential staff increases.

Research suggests that by 2026, 40-50% of jobs available today will no longer exist, which implies that a degree with transferable skills will be more useful in the future. According to Universities New Zealand director Chris Whelan, students who pursue a Bachelor of Arts emerge with exactly the same employment rates as someone with a degree in engineering or medicine.   

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