Cambridge University Library – daft admissions policies

I want to go up to Cambridge tomorrow and use the library.  I have a reader’s card; although, as a mere taxpayer, I’m only given one that expires every six months, and must pay £10 for the privilege.  Since I work — in order to support CUL with my taxes — I can only go up infrequently.  To renew, I have to sit in a queue in a dim room and wait.  I’ll have to do that (again) tomorrow.

I’ve just discovered that the poor dears are getting all precious about their admissions policy.  Apparently I have to bring my passport.  Yes; I have a photo ID card that they issued, I have been coming there for 11 years, but I have to bring my passport to prove who I am?

It’s understandable that a university which gets riff-raff from around the world may need to check who they are.  But hardly in my case, when I am renewing.  They also want a recent utility bill, for the same reason.  Frankly I’ve had less demands to visit a defence establishment! 

They also want me to produce again a letter of introduction proving that I am an appropriate person to handle rare books.  I’ve had this clearance for 10 years.  Why now?  Oh, and it must be someone with intimate knowledge of my research — yes, fine, except that for a private researcher who will know this?

I won’t bore you with the further, fussy, annoying details.  It’s the whole attitude that gets me.  I, as a respectable member of the public, who pays for the whole thing, is harassed with these absurd and petty regulations.  They do not benefit the library — on the contrary, they injure its reputation — and they injure me.

Why DO libraries do these things?  I wish I were a rich man.  I would get my lawyers to sort these people out in short order.

So… wasting time today gathering documents.


2 thoughts on “Cambridge University Library – daft admissions policies

  1. Studiously ignoring another posting on a well known digital library I am associated with 🙂 — I’ll say that Cambridge Uni library was not the worst I saw on my last trip to England, though I did remark at the time:

    “With a couple of hours remaining, I went down to the Classics Undergrad library, to see what I could see. You only get access to the Grownup library if you have a letter of recommendation stating your business. I can’t for the life of me get this preciousness; and that’s the kind of preciousness that Web 2.0 will not bust open.”

    No, the far worse thing was the TURNSTILES and RENTACOPS blocking public access to the libraries in London and elsewhere. That is simply inexcusable. I was told why it happened (counting patronage to justify keeping the libraries open—as if the general public are not potential patrons); but it’s moronic. As I also fulminated:

    “The LSE library needed you to swipe a card to get in to the books. Phil says Sheffield Uni’s the same. I find this offensive (and incomprehensible): uni libraries have a knowledge-keeping responsibility to the public, it baffles me that the public should be blocked from accessing them.”

  2. I think that the problem is that library staff are often somewhat low-grade, and their main concern is Not To Be Blamed. So they take the “safety first” route; safe for themselves, that is. No-one will blame them if they refuse admission to half the people they see; but their career may die if they let in someone who walks off with a book.

    I did get my pass renewed, but apparently they have a “New Manager” in the manuscripts department who has decided to mark his arrival by making access more difficult there.

    One reason why libraries feel under threat is the policy of unrestricted immigration pursued over the last 10 years. Most of these are young men from places like Somalia. Literally anyone might come through the doors, fresh out of the most backward corner of the planet.

    And many of such people don’t understand libraries. When I lived in Hong Kong they had a lot of ex-peasants there, and the public libraries suffered an incredible theft problem. Readers just wouldn’t return books; because they weren’t educated enough and civilised enough to put the public interest ahead of their own.

    After all, if you or I were poor, and went to a very rich country where we could disappear at any time, and could acquire stuff just by reaching out and doing so; where no real track was kept of us, where we could change our names any time we liked; how honest would we be? Well, in our cases, very; but remember, those who travel halfway across the world to the Land of Handouts must have plenty of determination to do things for themselves, but not necessarily the same amount of respect for others.

    So instead of keeping out the thieves at the borders, barriers have to go up at every public facility.

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