By Amy Blaney
Remember when you went on a sun holiday and there were people up at 7am reserving sun loungers with towels? This has become the scenario here at NUI Galway during exam season. Students queue outside waiting for the library to open, find a spot (with a plug), and leave their belongings for the day. This has become the culture here at NUI Galway. We need more space, more electrical plugs, and more bathrooms.
The deteriorating conditions of the NUI Galway library have come under scrutiny in recent years, and students have been voicing their dissatisfaction with the library facilities. Students frequently complain about the cramped and outdated conditions of the James Hardiman Library, and I’ll admit I am one of them. In a survey carried out last year, 85% of the comments made about the library’s physical environment were negative.
I have been a student here in NUI Galway for the past three years, and the library building is one I frequently visit. Not because I love the building, but because I need a place to do my work. The library is a core part of our university, but, unfortunately, our library has seen no investment in twenty years. Six other Irish universities across the country have made investments of at least €20 million over the past ten years to modernize their library buildings. Thankfully, in August, Joe McHugh, Minister for Education in Ireland, recently allocated €15 million towards funding the development of the James Hardiman Library.
Here are my two cents on the James Hardiman Library and where the funding needs to go. Space in the library has been an issue since I first started at NUI Galway. During exam season, I have spent more times than I can count circling the library floor in pursuit of a seat. If I don’t bring my laptop to college and I need to get work done, I am left roaming the library for an available PC, which could take up to half an hour or more. This is simply because there are not enough PCs here in the library. What is worse, however, is the lack of electrical plugs to charge my laptop or other electrical devices. During busy periods, students battle to get to the library early to secure a table with a plug. Upstairs on the second floor is a prime example of this. ‘Short stay zones’ need electrical sockets. Other things I would like to see are more group study rooms, chill-out spaces, more heating in the winter months and longer opening hours.
One of the biggest problems with the current library is the bathrooms, or the lack thereof. Out of the current three study floors in the main library, there are only two women’s bathrooms, and two men’s bathrooms, both inadequately small (two/three cubicles in each). When the library is at full capacity during exam season, there are often queues outside for the women’s toilets. In the Nursing and Midwifery Library, there is only one toilet. Otherwise, students must go back to the main library to find the nearest bathroom.
In my opinion, the library’s best asset is the staff, who always go above and beyond to help students out. With some technological advancements and a few decent bathrooms, we could breathe some life back into our library, and turn this negative environment into space we can learn, thrive and enjoy.