Debate over college library inequalities

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Oxford students have come out in favour of pooling college library resources but librarians across the University have rejected calls for book-sharing.A Cherwell survey has found that 80% of students believed that being able to borrow books from other colleges would be helpful. 45% of surveyed students said that being allowed to borrow books from other college libraries would be “very useful”, and 15% claimed that all the books required for tutorials were only easily available in confined sections of faculty libraries. Despite a 2003 OUSU report recommending that libraries share resources across the university, colleges have not moved beyond providing reference-only access with prior permission.
Several college librarians are worried that the unique nature of a college library would be ruined if they were opened up to the wider community. David Smith, Librarian at St Anne’s, pointed out that the current system encourages colleges to compete with one another to improve their libraries and said, “[To] open up all college libraries to all University members would take away the incentive that colleges currently have to provide good tailored services for their own members, and to compete with other colleges in making this an attractive service for current and potential members.”Our survey also revealed discrepancies in book grants. Pembroke, St Anne’s, St Edmund’s Hall, and St Peter’s provide their students with no book grants, while New College provides  £150 and Oriel College offers £250 and has over 100,000 volumes on its shelves.

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