The Erasmus University Library, much like the rest of the Woudestein campus, has no explicit access restrictions and is open for anyone to enter. But after several instances of vandalism over the past academic year (the most notable of which being last December when an individual deliberately pushed over the Christmas tree in the library) there has been much discussion among EUR students and staff about how much longer it should stay this way.

“This discussion implies that the vandalism is carried out by people from outside of EUR”, says Library director Lucinda Jones, who finds this irrelevant. “We would like everybody to treat the library with respect.” The question of whether the culprits are EUR students or not, does not influence the decision to leave the library publicly accessible, she adds.  “We are not able to determine who is behind the vandalism, but even if we were, that would not entail that we would decide to change our access policies.”

Unique access policies

The Erasmus University Library, along with the university libraries of TU Delft, TU/e, and Radboud University, are the only university libraries of the Netherlands which are completely open to the public. Jones explains why the EUR library has chosen to operate like this. “I believe the library should be of an open culture where everyone is welcome, without turnstiles or need to show an access pass. Everyone should feel at home whether they are a EUR student, faculty member, or students from other educational institutions in Rotterdam.”

She highlights how the library’s open access policies are important to EUR’s essence as a whole as well. “The EUR is very much focused on positive societal impact, so we, the library department, feel that by providing literature and quality reading and study spaces to all, we are doing our part in creating a positive societal impact for the larger community around the Woudestein Campus.” Jones believes this is why it is still justifiable to maintain an open library even after repeated cases of vandalism.

Extended working hours for stewards

How then does the library want to combat the growing instances of vandalism, if they are not planning to change its access policies in the foreseeable future? A possible solution could be found in the new working schedule of the library’s stewards. “There are plans to extend the working hours of library stewards, this could aid in preventing vandalism within the library”, Jones says. Starting in May, stewards will be present in the library from 12:00 to 21:00 during the week, as opposed to the current hours of 10:00 to 15:00. “We think that most acts of vandalism are likely to take place in later hours of the evening, and the prolonged presence of stewards in the building may discourage these acts from happening.”

Seat reservation system as a restriction policy

Some university libraries in the Netherlands, such as the libraries of UVA and Utrecht University, do have a policy where external visitors can access the library, as long as they acquire a valid library card, which serves as an access pass. However, during exam periods, the library’s study spaces are reserved exclusively for students and staff of the University. Jones explains that the EUR Library technically does have a form of access restriction that works in a similar manner, the seat reservation system. “The library’s reservation system can be viewed as a restriction of access for a broader group outside of the EUR community, since you cannot reserve a study space without an ERNA account, something that only EUR students and staff can possess. It is more of an indirect access restriction policy, however, because in principle, anyone can sit at a study space if there is free space at the library, but if it is busy, then EUR members hold priority thanks to the system.”

The seat reservation system is set to remain in place as it currently is, but according to Jones, the topic of changing the library’s current access policies by making them more strict ‘has never even been a part of any discussions’ within the library department.

University Values

In regard to how the library’s access policies tie into the values of EUR, Jones believes that having a ‘closed-off’ library would significantly alter the essence of the EUR Woudestein Campus as a whole. “EUR has a strong focus on inclusivity, tolerance, and open-mindedness, so having a library with restricted access policies would be quite ironic.”

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