The distribution of library funding between the two Exeter campuses is substantially unequal, according to a recent Freedom of Information request. The investigation looked into both the physical and electronic availability of library resources.
A request submitted by Exeposé found that the library at St. Luke’s received 89 per cent less funding than the Streatham library did in recent years, and that the library department does not have absolute authority on setting the budget for the two campus libraries. The resources allocated at each library come under the discretion of the colleges that are based at each campus.
During the academic year 2014-15, there were approximately 13,600 students actively enrolled on academic courses at Streatham. In contrast, 1,500 students were taking courses at St. Luke’s campus. Considering that there are three disciplines at St. Luke’s (Medicine, Sports Science, and PGCE courses), the proportion of students studying there parallels library resources.
When taking a closer look at the academic year of 2014-15, it is noticeable that there has been an improvement of book resources available for the St. Luke’s library. Compared to previous academic years, funding for St. Lukes’ rose from approximately £19,500 to £45,800.
The increase of resources nevertheless reflects the requirement of extra material at at St. Luke’s.
Eileen Tan, a second year student who studies Sports Science on the smaller campus spoke to Exeposé about her experience at St Luke’s library: “The resources at St. Luke’s are not as extensive as the ones as Streatham. For my course we have recommended books to purchase but it’s optional. The library has older editions of them, but even then they’re very limited in numbers.”
The head of the library, Clare Powne, highlighted the different nature of courses at St Luke’s, most of which involve placements. Therefore, the amount of students entering the library on a daily basis would be expected to be significantly less at St Luke’s library due to the absence of students during placement periods. Statistics shown to Exeposé by library staff regarding the footfall of students showed that at St. Lukes 400 students use the library on a daily average, whereas at the Streatham library, student usage ranged from 6,000, to 8,000 during peak time periods such as exam seasons.
“The footfall has fallen dramatically this year, by 36 per cent compared to previous years at St. Luke’s, which is indicative of the significant shift from physical books to electronic resources.
“The concept of a library is no longer confined within the physical walls of this building. The University’s investment into our vast selection of electronic resources has proven to be far more useful than conventional books.”
However, an increase in electronic resources increased from £3,000, to £50,000 for journal titles alone. In the past academic year, the University invested over £3.7 million in electronic resources. This increased push for a greater online library reflects the rapid increase in funding from 2014-2015, requiring £1.1 million more, as electronic resource investments stood at £2.6 million.
Second year German and Politics student Katie Costello, who frequently uses both Streatham and St. Lukes libraries, said: “I understand St. Lukes is a lot smaller than Streatham, but as a student who lives closer to the former, it would be really helpful if it was kept open longer, and had more resources on a variety of different topics.”
Bethan Jones, VP Education commented on student concerns:
“We’ll study the Freedom of Information Request in more detail, ensuring there are like-for-like comparisons that factor in all electronic and physical learning materials. If it appears there is a disparity in investment following this work then we’ll address student concerns with the University and work on a suitable course of action.”
“Funding for subscription resources at libraries at the Streatham and St Luke’s campus is not considered separately,” a University spokesperson commented. “Budgets for books are managed by the individual colleges.”
Pointing out that “around 90 per cent” of resources are now digital, they added: “The library service is not confined to buildings, what is available on shelves is the tip of the iceberg.”