Answered By: Ewan McCubbin
Last Updated: Aug 25, 2015     Views: 781

Thanks for filling in a comments card in the Library last week.  It’s been passed to me as the senior manager with responsibility for our public services.

I am really sorry to see how frustrated you are and I am very sympathetic.  To answer your specific points in turn (and I apologise for the length of this reply):

1.       I would agree that the Main Library is overcrowded during semester.

Despite the £7m redevelopment project of 2011/12 which increased study seat capacity by a third, our footfall since then has risen by around 60% and we are seeing overcrowding earlier in the semester than we did pre-redevelopment.  We have tried to stretch demand on study space by gradually increasing our opening hours (+30% during semester and +50% in vacation in the last 4 years) but I would accept that this doesn’t solve the problem on a Wednesday or Sunday afternoon when there are 900 students in here.  

We are looking at other options to further improve the building including providing power to desks currently without it and also to do something about “seat hogging.”  At the moment the University has no plans to increase the size of the Main Library.

2.       When the University purchased Martyrs and asked the Library to run it, we were tasked with doing so as a space for PGRs and staff only.  Usage has gradually increased over the last year but does tend to be quieter in the evenings and weekends.  Martyrs does ultimately only have 40 desks and if we were to open it to PGTs all of the time, my suspicion is that PGTs would soon find Martyrs as equally overcrowded as the Main Library. 

In short, Martyrs simply doesn’t have the capacity to cope with the large numbers of PGTs the University has.  We are also about to provide lockers in Martyrs for PGRs to rent and I suspect this will actually have an effect on increasing PGR use of the space.

3.       Whilst academic staff do have office space (although some would contend that Martyrs does still provide them with a much-needed quiet space away from their offices to research), there are many PhD students who do not have desks in their schools, let alone offices.  This shortage of PGR accommodation is one of the reasons the Library has had the postgraduate carrel system in the Main Library for a number of years.  

This used to consist of around 120 large desks spread across levels 3 and 4 which were allocated to specific PGRs (without desks in their schools).  Other students could use these desks but had to vacate them when the “tenant” PGR arrived.  It’s a far from ideal system but in the last few years we have a). reduced the actual size of these desks in order that more study spaces overall can be delivered on the silent floors; b). changed the method of allocation so that PGRs only have guaranteed access for one year at a time rather than several years and c). reduced the overall number of desks designated as carrels to about 35 this year.  This means that more PGTs, undergrads and other users can use the remaining desks.

4.       I don’t disagree that PGTs work just as hard as PGRs!

5.       You’re right to say that many other universities do have spaces for all PG students although some either have nothing or do distinguish between their PGRs and PGTs.  We would be delighted to offer a space for PGTs but I’m afraid we just don’t have the facilities.

6.       I take your point about the St Leonard’s website but that’s outwith the control of Library staff.  If you have suggestions about the design of that site, I think you’d be best to contact staff in the Provost’s office who look after its administration.

We will of course keep the situation with Martyrs under review and it may well be that the decision is ultimately taken to allow PGTs access but we are not at that stage just now.

I’d be more than happy to meet with you in person to talk about this issue.  I’d also encourage you to contact Tania Strützel, the Postgraduate Society Convenor (pgconvenor@st-andrews.ac.uk), with whom we regularly discuss Martyrs and PG study space provision in general.  

Best wishes

Ewan McCubbin

(Assistant Director of Library Services)

October 2014

Comments (7)

  1. I find this system is still segregating against PGT. I know for a fact certain schools have gotten access for the PGT to use Martrys Kirk Library. Also, one of the reasons I decided to attend was the separate library facility just for postgraduate students, yet to only find out that this is false.

    It is deeply saddening that you wouldn't allow current PGT into the library so we can have space to work away from the current undergraduate population. I hope the University comes to its senses or you are relieved from your duty as being a great segregator for postgraduate students.
    by Current PGT on Oct 27, 2014.
  2. Would it be possible to allow PGTs into Martyrs Kirk on a restricted hours basis?
    It seems stupid that we struggle to work in the very crowded main library when Martyrs Kirk is not full to capacity at weekends and evenings.

    I'd also suggest that PGRs with office space could be restricted from using Martyrs Kirk, as they have far better access to study space than PGTs who have to struggle to find a spot in the library.
    by Tangerine on Oct 27, 2014.
  3. Thanks for your comments - I'll answer them in turn. A small number of individual PGT students have been permitted access to Martyrs at the request of their supervisor because they have had a requirement to use the materials located in the reading room. This has been provided on a case by case basis and not on a per school basis.

    I'm concerned to learn that you were apparently told by the University that there was a separate library facility for postgraduates. This has never been the case and I can only apologise on behalf of the University if this is information you were given. If you would like to contact me directly on edm20@st-andrews.ac.uk with more details, I'd be happy to look into the matter.

    The University purchased Martyrs with the original intention of making it a reading room for PGRs only. As such, it was designed with only 40 desks in it and I do not believe that it is the solution for the pressures faced by PGTs for study space. If we did open the church up to PGTs, I would fully expect it to be quickly overcrowded as it simply won't be able to cope with the inevitable demands placed on it.

    In terms of the second set of comments, providing some kind of restricted access to Martys is something we've considered. However, it's really a bit of a red herring to adopt such a strategy in the evenings when occupancy in the Main Library is lower at night. Weekends are a slightly different matter so this is something we'll consider as part of our discussions with the Postgraduate Society, Students' Association and the University.

    Whilst I can see the logic in restricting access to Martyrs to only those PGRs without office space, I'm not convinced this would be that straightforward a policy to implement. However, I'll certainly discuss this idea with colleagues in the Library and with student representation.

    Thanks
    Ewan McCubbin (Assistant Director)
    by Ewan McCubbin on Oct 27, 2014.
  4. Alternatively, a study space located in an alternative building in town and reserved exclusively for PGT students would be nice!

    Unless there is one and I've missed the memo on that?
    by James Boswell Esq. on Oct 27, 2014.
  5. That would definitely be nice! There isn't a specific PGT-only study space at the moment so you've definitely not missed any memos.

    We are in active discussions with the Postgraduate Society and the University about the issue of study space in general and the requirements of PGTs in particular.

    I'd encourage anyone who has views on this to respond to our Library survey at http://bit.ly/libqual-survey which will be running for another couple of weeks. Feedback that we receive from the survey will be invaluable in helping to move this situation forward.

    Thanks
    Ewan McCubbin
    by Ewan McCubbin on Oct 28, 2014.
  6. Thanks for your response. The library is less busy in the evenings, but empties out far later than Martyrs does. It is only at about 9pm that the library reaches a comfortable working capacity in my opinion.

    A dedicated PGT study space is so called for!
    by Tangerine on Oct 30, 2014.
  7. Hello. Thanks for that. A good point about 9pm. We'll take a look at the occupancy figures for the Main Library in more detail and feed this into discussions about Martyrs access.

    I don't disagree that a PGT study space would be a welcome addition. I would encourage you to also raise the issue through the PG Society and Students' Association.

    I am more than happy to meet in person if you'd like to talk about any of these issues. My email is edm20.

    Thanks - Ewan.
    by Ewan McCubbin on Oct 30, 2014.