UU-only library policy in place during next exam period too

Foto: DUB

The trial, in which the library’s study spots were only available to UU staff and students during last October’s exam week, was a success, the UU says. In the morning, there were no queues of students  fighting to get a spot, there was a lot less noise pollution, the library was cleaner, and it was never busy enough that the library had to refuse entrance to people, as had happened in the past. Still, it’s too early to draw conclusions, says Nico Poppes of the University Library. Therefore, the trial will be extended: during the next exam period, the study spots in the library will once again be available only to UU students and staff. The University Library is considering letting in non-UU people in the evenings, because there was usually only a handful of students present during those hours.

Reason for the trial during the previous exam week was a study conducted by Poppes, which showed that 40 percent of the study spots in the university library were occupied by people from outside the UU. There were students from the University for Humanistic Studies, the University of the Arts, and the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht in both of the university’s libraries. Additionally, mbo students and high school students also use the study spots. Members of the university council wondered why students from outside the UU are welcome in ‘their’ busy library during these peak periods. The Executive Board agreed to a trial period in which non-UU people would be refused entry into the University Library.

25 percent quieter in first week
During the trial period, Poppes says, a few changes in visitor behaviour were noticeable compared to the same period a year earlier. “The spread of visitors was different. During other exam periods, it was always busiest in the first two weeks. Now, we saw relative quiet at first, with a gradual increase of the crowds.” The occupancy rate in the first week was, on average, 25 percent lower than the year before. In De Uithof, the number of visitors was also lower than before in the second week (by 10 percent). Afterwards, both libraries were busier than previous years. “It was also remarkable that Sunday was no longer the busiest day of the week. We suspect that peak disappeared because the University of Applied Sciences has opened up its own library during the weekend.”

Poppes says the spread throughout the day also differed from previous years. “We didn’t have hordes of students waiting in front of the city centre’s library in the mornings anymore. Apparently, students trusted there’d be enough spots available for everyone. We also saw the evenings become quieter. There were fewer visitors who stayed until 1am. At 11pm, there was only a handful of people left.” According to Poppes, the UU is considering opening up the library to non-UU people in the evenings during the next trial period.

UU alumni welcome in the evenings, says University Council
The library received approximately forty complaints about the fact that non-UU people weren’t allowed entry. These came from UU alumni who live in Utrecht and are continuing their studies elsewhere; people with a library card or library friend card; and students from other educational institutions. A decision will have to be made about which of these groups will be allowed access during the quieter hours in the evening, if any. The student members of the University Council prefer opening up the library to UU alumni with a library friend card during those hours. “Alumni are rooted here, and, as opposed to HU students or high school students, they don’t have an alternative. This isn’t a very large group, and they do contribute, because they have a UU friends card.”

Poppes says the decision will have to be made by the University Libraries, and not by the executive board or the University Council. “We have to really look at who we can fit in in the evenings. Because even a seemingly small group may end up bringing huge numbers of visitors.”

Aside from the complaints from non-UU people about the entry policy, there was also a large group of visitors who tried to enter with a fake student card. In the first week, 35 people were caught trying to do this. Afterwards, Poppes says, the library tightened up controls, and a few dozen people with forged cards were caught by security every day. “The intention of the trial period was to map the consequences of a stricter entry policy, which includes studying whether there’d be any instances of fraud. During the trial, we learned how to confirm this better and faster. It’s somehow rather charming to me, that people are trying to get into the library. Apparently, there’s a lot of interest in us.”

‘The goal of the trial has been accomplished’
The student members of the University Council, who had insisted on the trial with the Executive Board, are content with the results of the first trial period. “As we’d hoped, there was enough room for students, without having the buildings stand entirely empty,” the University Council members say. “That means the trial’s goal has been accomplished. There were additional unexpected benefits,  such as the fact that there’d been no security incidents at all.” The University Council is happy the trial is being extended. An important point of concern for the next trial period, the student members say, is combatting fraud. The students also say the university should prevent non-UU people from occupying study spots in other buildings. “That would simply mean relocation of the problem.”

After the second trial period, which will run from January 7 to January 31, a decision will be made about whether the University Libraries’ entry policy will be changed definitively. A stricter entrance policy will cost 28,000 euros per educational period, according to a memo sent to the University Council. The costs mostly concern the higher number of employees necessary for access control.