The University of Sheffield’s decision to open its library to local school pupils would be seen by most as a praiseworthy example of civic engagement – but a few library users are lamenting the behaviour of “the youth” and claiming that they treat the building as a “play centre”.
A recent strategic plan for the university’s libraries included a policy to “welcome students from local schools encouraging them to see the University Library as a place for them to learn and discover”.
However, one user of the Western Bank library contacted Times Higher Education to say that the policy has resulted in the building being “flooded with school students, the majority who use it as a play centre. Only a minority are studying.”
They claimed that the policy “was handed down without consultation”, further claiming that students, including under 16s who are not allowed in by the policy, often eat hot food or play loud music because “no system was put in place to manage the youth”.
The “Open Library is a great idea but it needs a system to support it and needs to be 18+”, the library user said.
One student wrote on Twitter that they were “disappointed by the lack of action taken against the large number of GCSE kids who use the library every day to chat, laugh, and play games, with zero regard for people who require a silent work space. Been distracted by a different group every day this week.”
Another student tweeted that there had “been a lot of complaints in our course chat about noise by visitors to Western Bank”.
In response, the library has said that from 13 April to 8 June access to the library is restricted to registered library users: “Our priority during this time is to ensure we have sufficient study space and a quiet study environment for our students.” However, the website states that local students in post-16 education are also able to register for use.
Anne Horn, Sheffield’s director of library services, said: “The University of Sheffield has a long-standing commitment to outreach and welcomes students from local schools into the library, in particular through a valued pre-entry programme.
“We’re aware that there have been more school students visiting the library during the holidays, during which time the library is not at capacity and there are a variety of study spaces available. We have a recently refurbished community space that we are encouraging our school students to use.
“Ensuring our university students and staff are happy with the service we provide is important to us so we have invited some students who raised concerns about school visitors to a small focus group.”