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Gaining access to academic libraries: To swipe or not to swipe? – Addendum

I’d just like to thank those who have commented to me either on the blog or in person about this post.Certainly there are interesting and relevant points on both sides of the debate, in terms of whether anyone should be able to walk in to academic library space or not.

I’d stressed the value of the educative role of academic libraries and facilitating access to information, where we can, as a key reason I’d fall in the “not to swipe” camp, though I appreciate it’s not an entirely straightforward question.

Thanks to those who point out that:

  • Academic library space is increasingly at a premium, and it can be hard to accommodate even our own students.
  • Those who enter academic libraries do not always have the best intentions in mind, and in some cases, walk-in access can leave legitimate users more open to risk of theft, for example. On this note, I spent time recently at one of Dublin’s public libraries. Obviously public libraries, by their very nature, open their doors to all.  I did notice though that quite often there would be an announcement on the intercom to advise library patrons to look out for their possessions in this busy open public space. This seemed one way of approaching the matter.
  • In practice, it can be hard for us to make our information available, even where we want to, due to vendor licenses. And this is certainly a significant factor, though guest access, where research use is intended, is permissable in some cases.
  • In a meeting I had with two librarians at an Irish academic library recently where access gates are used, they talked about:
    • how, on the one hand, their gates give technical difficulties, with the result that they’d actually had to deactivate the swiping requirement for some of the summer months (which reminds me that this morning at another academic library in Dublin, I saw one of the student orientation guides, say to the students he was bringing on a tour, that the library gates often don’t work, and that it can lead to queues, as students have problems getting their cards to register as they enter the library).
    • on the other hand, they had a case, where funding was sought for a library project from different faculties. One faculty stated their disinterest in helping with funding, giving as a reason for this that their students seldom use the library. Hello access stats! The swiping stats that they had enabled them to show how many students were, in fact, visiting the library from that specific faculty (which actually turned out to be a lot), and this made a difference in making the case for funding!

Lots to ponder!

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