Answered By: Ewan McCubbin Last Updated: Aug 25, 2015 Views: 584
Thanks for your feedback the other day on one of our comments cards. This issue of seat hogging has vexed both Library staff and our users for some years now and, despite the increase in study space provision provided by the 2011/12 redevelopment project, we are still frequently full.
We’ve spent an awful lot of time going backwards and forwards as to what could be done. We’ve also canvassed students for their views and both our own surveys and the Students’ Association Library survey on the Library (conducted in semester one of this session) found the same thing – i.e. completely polarised views. Many students, like you, are appalled at this behaviour and wish the Library to do something about it. Many other students take the opposite view and argue strongly that if they are up early enough to “reserve” a seat, then that is their prerogative and they are forced into this type action because there aren’t enough seats in the building.
We have researched practice at other university libraries that face similar problems and there are some interesting approaches. Some libraries do nothing, leaving their students to sort it out amongst themselves. Interesting! Others monitor for how long a desk appears to be unattended, leaving some kind of official “marker” on the desk which essentially acts like a parking ticket – if another user comes along and sees the marker and that it has “expired,” then they are effectively being authorised by the Library to move the other student’s belongings to the side and to occupy the desk themselves. Libraries that have adopted this practice tell us that it generally works well and there’s little debate between the students concerned.
Other libraries have been more radical and have actually deployed members of staff to physically remove students’ belongings after they’ve been deemed to be unattended for too long. Students then have to come and collect their belongings from a designated location and sometimes this would involve being issued with an additional sanction – e.g. a fine or a disciplinary warning.
I’m now of the view that we are going to have to tackle this problem at the start of the new session and am an advocate of the second option – the parking ticket approach. We would be likely to “mark” an abandoned study desk after an hour (half an hour seems too short and 2 hours is definitely too long). I am really not keen to ask our staff to start moving students’ belongings as this would be highly labour intensive and would require sufficient storage space somewhere in the Library.
So I am sorry you’ve had this frustrating experience and can assure you that we are most aware of the problem and equally frustrated! Hopefully 2014 will be the year we finally find a way forward.
Ewan McCubbin (Assistant Director)