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FIFTY students at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) staged an overnight occupation of their famous library in protest against savage cuts to staffing.
The action came after university managers apparently threatened to slash a quarter of the librarians, including highly trained archivists.
The SOAS library is one of only five national research libraries and attracts experts from around the world to consult its rare collection of precious manuscripts.
Students rallied to support the embattled librarians yesterday, mounting a demonstration outside the university.
Their protests escalated after dark, with dozens of students refusing to leave the library at closing time.
They laid out sleeping bags and stayed in the building all night.
The occupiers said: “We need to ensure that SOAS doesn’t sacrifice its jewel in the crown — the library.”
The university is aiming to slash the library’s budget by £650,000, which critics say will mean the sacking of over a dozen full-time staff by the end of July.
Campaign group Save SOAS Library warned in a statement that the cuts would have a “devastating impact.”
The library’s cadre of archivists will be among the hardest hit, despite management claims that an expansion of archival services is planned – an assertion that campaigners describe as “bizarre.”
The occupiers said in a statement that they had been “forced to take this action due to the continued lack of engagement from SOAS management.”
They accused the bosses of using student requests for better library services as an “excuse to push through the cuts.”
The protesters are also angry that higher-paid library managers appear to be insulated from the cuts, arguing: “If saving money is the key reason, then a reduction in the highest-paid staff should come first.”
A SOAS spokesperson told the Star: “A small group of students and former students held what they described as the SOAS Library Sleepover last night. They left this morning before 8am.
“In relation to proposed library change, we are looking to make a range of improvements, including earlier opening and longer opening hours, within the resources available.
“Our commitment is to providing a well-resourced and well-run library, focused on the needs of all library users.”
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