Auckland University confirms library closures despite huge protests

The University of Auckland has confirmed its decision to close down three specialist libraries and cut more than 100 jobs in support services.

This means the School of Fine Arts, Architecture, and Music and Dance Library collections will now be consolidated into the school's General Library.

The Vice-Chancellor's announcement states changes won't occur this academic year, and the moving of books will not happen until space is freed up in the General Library.

The decision comes after months of protests from students and staff that piqued with an April rally attended by more than 1000 people.

Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said the university's financial situation requires the move.

"Our library system is among the most expensive in a group of more than 35 universities across New Zealand and Australia. The principal reason is that we continue to operate multiple library sites while most others in the group have already consolidated theirs.

"There is already a highly significant shift to digital access of the library collection, creating a further reason to revise our approach to the delivery of services."

Mr McCutcheon says he appreciates that this has been a challenging process for students and the 114 staff whose jobs in the libraries and learning services have been cut.

Students have pointed out the Vice-Chancellor's annual salary of more than $710,000 is an alternative area costs could be reduced.

Mr McCutcheon's salary makes him the highest paid chief executive of all national tertiary education institutions, and the second highest paid chief executive in the Public Service and State sector - just below the State Services Commissioner.

A large group of students and staff from group Save UoA Fine Arts Library protested the decision outside the office of the Dean of the Creative Arts and Industries department on Thursday.

In a statement, the groups say they respectfully asked Dean Diane Brand to speak face to face.

"She refused and instead called security. The Elam Students Association provided the Dean and Director of Library and Learning Services with an opportunity to announce the decision to the group, however they chose to shut them out and conduct the meeting in a secluded room. Diane Brand was escorted out by security."

Student protestors are frustrated with the decision, and say the move is short-sighted.

"University management do not have a plan in place as to what will replace the spaces once the collections are moved out. Closing them will have a detrimental impact on the quality of student research, education, and life.

"We agree that the Government needs to direct more funding towards tertiary education, but the Vice-Chancellor should not use this failing to justify his own execution of short-sighted cost-cutting measures."

They say they will continue to protest the university's decision.