Trinity has put on hold plans to replace its Santry Stacks book repository – flagged as “not fit for purpose” almost two years ago – due to a lack of funds, The University Times has learned.
Unpublished minutes from a meeting of Trinity’s Library and Information Policy Committee, seen by The University Times, reveal that “the issue of the book repository in Santry” – which is currently full – has been raised, but that “there is little possibility of Philanthropic funding” to replace it.
Veronica Campbell, the College bursar, wrote in an email statement to The University Times that “a business case for the Santry repository has not yet been developed” – despite the College’s 2018 Estates Strategy calling a new solution for book storage “critical”, and identifying it as a time-sensitive issue.
In 2018, Trinity announced plans to replace the storage unit, which houses most of Trinity’s books, after College’s Estates Strategy found that collections were “being kept in conditions that are not appropriate for an institution with the reputation of Trinity”.
“It is critical for the collections and the finances of Trinity that there is a depository solution”, the report added.
According to the report, new materials were being held in commercial storage, at a cost of “hundreds of thousands of Euros per annum”.
But the minutes appear to show that a strategy around the repository is not a priority when it comes to philanthropic donations, despite several other projects in College – including the Business School and the Engineering, Environment and Emerging Technologies (E3) Institute – receiving millions from donors.
At the meeting, held last May, Campbell confirmed that “financing is an issue” when it comes to the replacement of the facility, but proposed developing a business case for the project.
Speaking to The University Times in 2018, Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton explained that the College is currently trying to fulfil its responsibilities to students while also upholding the library’s responsibilities as a legal deposit library.
Trinity’s library has been designated a legal deposit since 1801. This status requires under statute that publishers and distributors provide at least one copy of every new publication, free of charge, to the library. Trinity also benefits under the UK scheme, meaning it also receives a copy of every book published or distributed in Britain.
The report identified the possible “complication” of a funding deal signed in the 1970s between Trinity, the National Library and Dublin City Council. As part of the agreement, Trinity ceded parts of the title of the depository to the two bodies.
The strategy listed the Santry depository as one of the College’s most time-sensitive projects, and stated that once a more appropriate space for the books was found, it would be possible to decant these books to an off-campus location, freeing up space in the process for student activities.
Areas earmarked by College for conversion to student spaces in the future include parts of the Lecky library and the 1937 Reading Room.
While the strategy listed Santry as a short to medium-term project, it also outlined the urgent need for space on campus, with 75 per cent of the College’s buildings in need of repair or replacement.
In 2018, the library’s system for borrowing and renewing books underwent an extensive overhaul in a bid to make books more accessible for students.
Undergraduate students can now borrow up to 10 general lending books at a time, for a period of four weeks before renewal. Undergraduate borrowing rights were previously limited to a maximum of four books at once, with a loan period of one week.
In 2019, Trinity’s libraries carried out a €350,000 project, which saw over half a million books fitted with new microchips in a bid to improve security and allow staff to track them more easily.
Some 550,000 books are now fitted with microchips, using a system called radio frequency ID, which will allow staff to track them more easily when large volumes of books are being moved around the libraries, or if books go missing.