From security to coffee, “everything was arranged,” said department manager Carin Klompen to Observant last week. The trial with night-time library opening hours during the XXL weeks was ready to start. The three-week experiment was to start on Saturday, 6 October, but was cancelled on Thursday evening, 4 October because of strong protests from neighbours in the area.
The neighbourhood was only informed by letter on Tuesday, 2 October. “Reactions were very fierce,” says Ingrid Wijk, director of the university library. Wijk acknowledges that the neighbourhood was informed at a very late stage. That was because all the preparations – security et cetera – were only finalised last week, says Wijk. Resident Barend Fisser: “We feel taken by surprise. The decision to introduce a 24-hour opening scheme was taken without any discussion with the neighbourhood.” This was reason enough for the university library to invite the residents for a talk on Thursday evening, 4 October and/or Friday morning, 5 October.
On Thursday evening, approximately 15 neighbours arrive at the university library. That they had not taken kindly to the matter becomes clear in the report of the discussion by residents' association Jekerkwartier. Ignoring the neighbourhood was “to put it mildly, very much against the rules of decent conduct towards one’s neighbours.” The neighbourhood, the report shows, feels that enough is enough: the university is growing too fast for the small city centre of Maastricht. Residents from the Jekerkwartier sleep poorly because of the terrible noise disturbance around closing time caused by students in the area. Residents' health is at risk because of their disturbed sleep. They say that with 24/7 opening hours, this only gets worse.
The university library apologised for its poor communication and is now postponing the first trial. “We underestimated the reaction and we really want a good relationship with our neighbours,” says Wijk. Still, the residents are “very worried about what will follow”. That is why the residents' association has sent a letter to alderman Bert Jongen with a request “to help them in this conflict of interest”.
The intention to experiment with a 24-hour opening scheme still stands, but whether this will go ahead is unsure. Wijk: “We will first talk with the neighbours. The university library has several locations, maybe we do need to look at Randwyck.”