Library Staff Statement on SOAS Cuts

Please see below a statement from SOAS Library staff on the cuts to Library staffing & services resulting from the One Professional Service proposals:

SOAS Library staff restructure cuts 25% of Library staff and the services they deliver

SOAS is currently restructuring all its professional Services departments. One aim of the restructure is to make approximately £1.55 million of savings on its current Professional Services annual salary budget of approximately £22.3 million.

Although cuts are being made across all Professional Services departments it seems as though the Library has been specifically targeted, with cuts of £650k-675k being made. The Library is being asked to make 43% of the total savings. This is despite Library staff making up only 13% of all non-academic staff.

This will result in the loss of 25% of current Library staff with the equivalent of 13 fte posts going by the end of July 2019. The aim is for around 30  posts to go across Professional Services as a whole, so almost half of these posts will come from the Library alone.

These cuts will have a devastating impact upon the services the Library is able to offer staff, students and visiting researchers.

Dedicated specialist librarian support for all subjects other than Law will go completely, with 4 specialist subject librarians losing their jobs. Support for Law has been attached to a newly created managerial post which will hugely diminish the level of support available for Law staff & students. All other subject support work will be re-allocated to the remaining regional librarians although there is no indication in the plan of how this will be done.

What is clear, however, is that the substantial additional subject workload will impact negatively upon the regionally focused work which these staff currently do in supporting the local, national & international research communities through SOAS Library’s role as a National Research Library.

As one of only five National Research Libraries (the others being Oxford, Cambridge, LSE & the University of Manchester) SOAS Library receives around £670k of annual funding from Research England. Might this be in jeopardy given these re-allocations of workload?

SOAS Archives & Special Collections are also substantially negatively impacted by the proposed changes with losses of staff at all levels. Again this raises specific concerns in relation to the continued allocation of Research England special funding.

Frontline services to support all library users, but particularly SOAS undergraduate & postgraduate students will be decimated through this plan with the number of staff working in this area reduced from 12 to 6. This will mean a massively increased reliance on self- service but with no investment to upgrade existing poor self-service facilities.

The Library will also be losing staff who provide dedicated support for e-resources, distance learning and transnational education at a time when support in all these areas needs to be expanded.

Changes to shelving staff contracts will mean that items will take longer to be re-shelved and cuts in the section which acquires new material will mean that new books will take longer to arrive & longer to reach the shelves on arrival. Similarly, email enquiries will be dealt with more slowly.

Particularly worrying is the fact that the plans make no reference at all to any specific continued dedicated  library staff support for students with disabilities or specific learning differences.

Although the Library as a whole will be making savings of £650k-£675k  these cuts are being made exclusively across the five lowest paid grades at which Library staff are currently employed. Astonishingly the number of managerial posts across the three highest paid grades increases by one, with an extra post on the top grade & two new posts one grade lower. However 15 of the remaining posts on non-managerial levels are proposed to be line-managed by one person on a non-managerial grade. This will leave 8 managers on the top three grades managing a total of only 19 staff.

Library staff are constantly told that SOAS Library compares poorly in terms of expenditure on Library staff with ‘comparable libraries in the sector’ but we are never given a clear indication of which these comparable libraries are or exactly how we compare badly. The ‘rationale’ document which was released along with the new structure diagram is vague & gives no context to the proposed changes. Library staff are being asked to engage with the process & make decisions about their futures without full job descriptions for each of the new posts. Instead only short bullet point ‘role descriptors’ have been released, and not even for all new posts.

The vague aspirational objectives given in the rationale document are actually rendered completely unachievable by the new structure and the scale of the cuts.

All the Professional Services restructure proposals are currently out for consultation but the consultation period is short, closing on 11 January 2019.

SOAS staff can view the diagram of the proposed new library staff structure, the rationale document & the role descriptors under Annex G at:

We would ask SOAS staff, students and any external interested parties to please support our campaign to oppose these proposed scathing cuts by submitting comments to the consultation procedure email address:

Please also sign the petition at:

Show support for the campaign by following @SaveSOASLibrary  on Twitter. Please use hashtags #SaveSOASLibrary & #librarycuts.

If you tweet support please tag in SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos @ValerieAmos and incoming SOAS Library Director (starts on 14 Jan 2019) Oliver Urquhart-Irvine @Urquhart_Irvine

This webpage was last updated on: 30 Jun 2014 10:54