Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union, reflects on the decision of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland to axe 45 full-time equivalent jobs from Libraries and Learning Services.
With many people losing their jobs and a whole library closing down, it’s easy to say how staff at the University of Auckland Library are feeling today – devastated.
Forty people this week have had their lives turned upside down. Their families and their communities will be affected, and the colleagues that kept their jobs will see their day-to-day work change significantly.
And then there are the students and staff who argued so passionately to keep their specialist music and arts library open, all of whom will be feeling extremely disappointed by the Vice-Chancellor’s decision.
As we reflect on the huge impact this will have on learning support at the University, it is important to note that the employer did listen when staff and students argued that Māori and Pasifika library positions needed to be kept, as well as ensuring all staff are able to support Māori and Pasifika students.
The ‘whitestreaming’ of support positions has been common across the sector and has a detrimental impact on institution’s ability to fulfil their core mission of teaching and learning. We are pleased that the employer at the University of Auckland has taken note of this.
Sadly the same cannot be said of the decision to close the Creative Arts and Industry Library. Hundreds opposed the closure, which will see the collections of that specialist library move to the general library, or storage.
What’s worse, in a document approved by the Vice-Chancellor confirming the closure, the University said many of those responding to the major shake-up of the library based their submissions on incorrect assumptions.
Far from the responders being at fault, what this shows is that there was not enough open dialogue and debate around the proposed changes to the library.
Misunderstandings can only be overcome if our public institutions are open and transparent about their actions; staff and students can only make informed comments if they are part of an open and transparent process.
Perhaps we can learn from the libraries review to do things better. However, this won’t address the harm done by cutting 45 full-time equivalent jobs – harm to individuals, and harm to core services like teaching, learning, and research.