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No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, while I sat in Senate House Library last week, that great collections such as these may soon be endangered by investment in online learning, than news of staff cuts at Bangor University Library emerged. [Note: if this link doesn’t work, then this is just more proof of the ephemerality and inadequacy of the online world].

One of the lines of reasoning from the consultancy document is this: “With neither students nor staff working regular office hours, and many students working off campus, technology is the most flexible answer to their needs, it adds”

Technology, when it comes to research, can be quite inflexible. These are the things it cannot do:

  • Allow students to read documents or books which haven’t been digitized, or which require additional payment for access
  • Allow students to come across books and journals which haven’t been catalogued properly (or at all)
  • Allow students gain an instant overview of a subject by walking through the open access shelves.
  • Allow students to evaluate materials quickly by flicking through hundreds of pages of a book in a matter of seconds
  • Allow students to gain from the experience of others, be they librarians, professors, subject or language specialists or private researchers
  • Give students a large, warm, comfortable space which is conducive to research, thinking and laying out materials
  • Allow students access to materials which are not top-of-the-list for digitization programmes, but are nonetheless crucial to their subject or interest
  • Allow students to be guided by people who know the collections back-to-front because they’ve shelved most of the materials

Personally, I don’t think that University Library provision should be driven by solely what are perceived as ‘student needs’ but by the needs of the subject, the nature of the material to be studied, and the needs of research and study as a discipline, but I acknowledge that this is uneconomic in a world where the government wants 50% of the relevant population to be graduates.

It may seem a strange argument, but I think being able to touch, feel & smell the materials that you are studying is an important part of the mind’s engagement with them, quite apart from the fact that it’s easier, most of the time, than reading on a screen.

Before anyone accuses me of being luddite, I’m a big fan of IT, online resources & internet-based research – but not at the expense of technologies and resources which may be better equipped to deal with the problems at hand.

One thought on “Bangor University Library – worrying news?”
  1. Just a post to let you know that at the start of this accademic year I will be launching a new website aimed at Bangor students and local buisinesess. The Idea being that students and buisinesses around bangor can communicate to each other. I’ts like a free advertising space, where members can post news about events happening around Bangor and review restaurants, pubs and clubs around Bangor. Most of the websites content will be submited in by students letting them put across their point of view. There will also be a forum, personal messages system plus a chatroom which you can use to share files from your computer.
    Although we are not marketing the site until the start of the academic year it is up on the web allready. If you would like to have a look or if you have anything to contribute then please visit the site at

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist