UCU members have voted in an emergency meeting today (9 February 2021) to call on the university to close library study spaces and make alternative, unstaffed study spaces available to students who have that essential need. Members also agreed a motion to the union’s national academic-related and professional staff meeting to highlight the need of UCU to focus more nationally on the needs of academic-related staff working on campus during the pandemic.
Full text of the motions agreed:
Motion: Libraries and study space
This branch notes that:
- Despite being in the most dangerous point in the entire pandemic, and in a national lockdown, the University libraries remain open with up to 1700 bookable study spaces available per day.
- Library staff are being asked to work in these spaces and interact with large numbers of library users on a daily basis.
- Library staff are not allowed to ask for evidence that a library user has had a recent negative lateral flow test.
- This is extremely stressful and upsetting for many members of front-line Library staff and they feel abandoned and dismissed.
- Library staff and branch officers have highlighted all these concerns to University senior management, and although some health and safety improvements have been made, the fundamental issue remains that Library staff are being asked to go into a risky situation and potentially jeopardise their own health and that of their families and household members.
This branch is concerned that the University is prioritising student access to study space over staff health and welfare.
This branch supports Library staff and resolves to:
- call on University management to:
- stop offering study space within the libraries and return to click and collect only.
- for students who have essential needs, offer unmanned and remotely monitored study spaces instead e.g. computer clusters and Parkinson court.
- support any members who because of the conditions at work and their personal circumstances decide to put in a Section 44 notice because they believe there is a serious and imminent risk to their health and safety in the workplace.
- call on UCU nationally to ensure risks to Library staff, and other academic-related colleagues, are highlighted in future campaigning against returning to campus and in publicity to the press.
Motion from Leeds UCU to UCU Academic-related professional staff (ARPS) annual meeting on 18 March 2021
University libraries opening during the pandemic
This meeting notes:
- During the first Covid-19 lockdown many campuses were closed, including libraries
- Many libraries operated a ‘click and collect’ service for access to books/materials
- UCU’s strong campaign to ensure most teaching moved online, with considerable success in many universities
- Many universities have now opened study space in libraries, claiming they are ‘covid-secure’
- Library staff (and their communities) are therefore at unnecessary elevated risk of contracting coronavirus
This meeting calls on the ARPS committee, HEC, NEC, General Secretary and UK officers to:
- Ensure that risks to ARPS staff (including library staff) are highlighted in all Covid-19 campaigns, materials, and press releases
- Launch a UK campaign for university libraries to return to click and collect access only during the Covid-19 pandemic
- Provide specific central and regional support to branches where library staff feel they are being placed in serious and imminent danger.