Who’s been sleeping in your library?

SPONSORED: D-Tech International, looks at the concerns raised by students sleeping on campus and the difficulties caused by opening around the clock.

An Australian university has recently had to ask six international students to leave the 24-hour campus library at Charles Sturt University in the New South Wales city of Port Macquarie because they were sleeping there overnight. The students were apparently living in Sydney at the weekends and travelling to the University to study during the week. Initially, they stayed in backpacker hostels but were unable to secure permanent accommodation, so ended up staying on campus.

With the number of international students in Australian universities increasing, the cost of accommodation and the difficulties international students face as high-risk tenants, it is no surprise that many feel safer living on campus.

But is it the same in the UK, and does the 24/7 opening adopted by so many university libraries increase the risk? In February 2017 the School of Arts in Liverpool sent an email advising all its students that “extended access to School premises is granted to meet the needs of student work and independent study” and that it is acceptable to have a brief 20-minute power nap but no-one can sleep for a prolonged period on site. “Bedding and sleeping bags have been found, and members of staff have had to wake up people who have been found fast asleep lying on a couch, chairs grouped together or on the floor”. Any sleeping bags or bedding found would be confiscated and contravening the out-of-hours protocol would result in access being revoked.

Opening your library around the clock is appreciated by students, many of whom fit their studies in around hectic lives, but it is important that the facilities are not being abused. It is also a welfare concern if students have to sleep on campus because they have no alternative accommodation.

Improvements to security and monitoring processes are the first step to stopping students from sleeping your library:

  • Ensure out of hours access is limited to those in possession of a valid library card and that software facilitates accurate reporting to show any anomalies in the use of the facility.
  • If it becomes apparent that specific students are regularly staying in the library overnight, flag it to the appropriate department to ensure their accommodation arrangements are acceptable.
  • Consider the installation of thermal people counters to support your security team and monitor the number of library occupants.
  • Improve the security of your stock through book reservations units, self-service vending units and security gates.

If your library is open for longer hours, you would expect to incur additional expenditure such as heating and lighting costs, but technology allows you to minimise these costs. The Internet of Things will enable us to interconnect technology so that it communicates and makes informed choices as to whether or not to switch the lights on, control the heating thermostat, etc. By linking it to your LMS, it will know how many people have entered the library, and by using thermal imaging technology, it will know where they are in the building and can manage the utilities accordingly. The same technology can be used to improve security within your library and alert staff if issues arise.

D-Tech International designs, develops and manufactures high-performance RFID products and library security systems. We provide installation and customer service for our full range of products. If you are looking to increase the opening hours of your library, or require assistance improving your current system, we’re always happy to answer your questions so visit our website or call us on 01394 420077.