Proposal to close Language Centre Library meets staunch opposition

A petition against the proposal currently has over 1200 signatures, with the University Academic Administration Division citing "declining usage" as the reason for the proposal.

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Plans by the University to close the Language Centre Library at the end of Trinity Term have been met with a petition signed by over 1,200 people.

The petition, started by the current Language Centre librarian Lucile Deslignères, has received support from groups including the Oxford University French Society and the German Society.

The Language Centre cites “low and declining usage” as the principal reason for closure. However, according to the petition official library statistics show usage has risen by approximately 75% since 2012.

The proposed plan would involve splitting the current collection around other locations in Oxford, while sending a number of works to the bookstack in Swindon.  

Subject Consultant at the Taylor Institution Library Nick Hearn described the decision as “one that threatens to destroy a collection of national importance embedded in and very much part of the Language Centre.”

He went on to state that the closure would “have a knock-on effect on other libraries in Oxford–including the Taylorian.”

The Oxford branch of the University and College Union also expressed their concern about the proposed closure. Co-Vice-President Svenja Kunze called on the governing body to conduct a “full consultation with all stakeholders, including the Language Centre and the wider Oxford University students and staff.”

An Oxford University spokesperson told Cherwell: The number of registrations at the Library has fallen considerably in recent years […] in the light of this declining usage, the increasing availability of online learning materials, and the need to increase efficiency, we are currently consulting on proposals to move many of the library’s holdings to the Bodleian Libraries.

“Locating the relevant library resources in the Bodleian libraries would retain them for language study in Oxford, and preserve the diversity of language materials that has been built up. Better disabled access to the resources would become possible, and the resources would be accessible for longer opening hours than at the Language Centre.

“The Language Centre is the University’s hub for language learners, and we are committed to ensuring it continues to provide a high-quality service for students, staff and other learners.”

Those opposing the library’s closure reference British Council statistics, which show a decline in language learning since the 1990s. In a letter to the Oxford Magazine, Co-Vice-President Kunze expressed concern “about the message the University is sending about the importance of language learning: at a time when the teaching and learning of foreign languages is at an all-time low in British schools.”

An email was sent out on Wednesday of 8th week to let students know that consultation was taking place on “proposals to move many of the library’s holdings to the Bodleian Libraries.” The email was sent only to those currently enrolled in the Language Centre and gave no mention of closure.

A recent post on the Language Centre website confirms that the consultation will be ongoing until the 31st of May.  Students and staff have expressed disappointment to Cherwell at being notified so soon before the vacation.

The library is the most diverse facility of any UK language centre, with over 200 languages represented, and has been cited as a model of excellence by the Russell Group.

In addition, the librarian and extended-hours assistants would see their posts abolished, with no equivalent roles being created as substitute.

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