Has anyone ever thought how stupid it is that our £44 million library can only seat 2,000 out of 30,000 students?
The VC thinks it’s a vast improvement
In 2016, UoB unveiled the £44 million library, replacing the 1950s library (answering students' prayers as they complained of lack of air conditioning), which boasts an all manner of upgrades. With 38 miles of shelf space, an audio listening room, and four video editing suites, it's clear to see where the money has gone.
It's just a shame only 2,000 students can appreciate it at a time.
The University of Birmingham boasts the fourth largest student population in the UK, with 21,495 undergraduates and 12,335 postgraduates. So, with the library only being able to accommodate 2,000 students with study spaces, we must be wondering, where is our annual payment of £9,250 each going?
I am sure we have all had experiences of making the long trek along and up all the floors of the library in the hunt for a single space, before retreating to the loud Mason Lounge or the canteen of the Business building. I have heard stories of students coming into the library at 9am the day before term has even started and being unable to find a seat.
At the recent Vice Chancellor's Question Time event held by the Guild, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir David Eastwood, nominated the Academic Registrar to answer my question regarding insufficient study space.
The Academic Registrar then told the audience that every time he has checked, which is apparently often, there are spaces available in the library. This response then received a scoff and laughter from the audience, showing that they too were unsatisfied with both the lack of study space and the lack of clear answer from the Vice Chancellor.
The Vice Chancellor did give me an answer prior to nominating the Academic Registrar, citing planning taking place years in advance and other study spaces on campus. He said: "we were thinking a long way ahead, like in the case of Chamberlain, and made these decisions in 2011 due to lease.
There are other study spaces on campus, for example the Aston Webb building."
As I'm sure many students will agree, sitting in the Aston Webb building is not the same as sitting in the Library, with the lack of books and other resources available as well as less accessible hours.
The Vice Chancellor went on to say "we won't be space constrained as a campus", in regard to questions surrounding the Green Heart Project (seen by many as a glorified garden, and many students preferring more study space to this spectacle which has already incurred the felling of over 120 trees). But if we are not space-constrained, then where is the more accessible study space?
He did, however, provide a more coherent explanation regarding the future of the digital. He stated that during planning meetings many executives raised concerns about students not actually using a library in the future digital age. With so many students now relying on Panopto over going to actual lectures, it is not difficult to see why.
The Vice Chancellor claimed that he was instrumental in pushing the build of the new library, and reassured us that the library is indeed a huge improvement on the old one. But with students paying £9,250 a year, surely they should be getting more for their money's worth than sitting in their student rooms, relying purely on online resources for lectures and information.
The event itself would cover other topics such as increasing student numbers; LGBT+ and womens' rights in the new Dubai UoB campus; and the poor mental health counselling service. Many of these questions would also receive frustratingly vague and insufficient answers from Professor Sir David Eastwood. However, he did promise to "provide a variety of resources so students can identify where there are study spaces", meaning you can save yourself the walk from Selly to campus only to find no space in the library.
Where is all of our money going? Does anyone know? Because, as a student paying over £9,000 a year I can't seem to tell.