Posted by: John Brace | 26th January 2018

University of Liverpool charges visitors £5 a year for using its libraries!

University of Liverpool charges visitors £5 a year for using its libraries!


If you only have £4.95 you won't be able to afford a visitor card for the University of Liverpool library as the new charge is £5

If you only have £4.95 you won’t be able to afford a visitor card for the University of Liverpool library as the new charge is £5

I will declare an interest at the start as a former student at the University of Liverpool and a current library card holder in the visitor category. I’m also married to a library card holder in the visitor category.

The University of Liverpool has changed its policy this month and will now charge visitors who use its libraries £5 a year. This is referred to as an “annual administration fee”.

This new charge will not apply to those using the special collection and archives, SCONUL Access, alumni, sixth form students (at certain schools and colleges), disability support assistants.

Visitors although now charged £5 (although those with existing cards will only be charged when they expire), will not be permitted from visiting the University of Liverpool libraries today as they are barred between the 8th – 26th January 2018 to favour other classes of library users during exam periods.

Visitors are also not allowed to use many of the University of Liverpool library services for example to print, scan or to book study rooms.

When I asked the University of Liverpool why this policy has been changed (as for at least the last decade visitor cards have been free (with the only charge imposed to replace lost cards), this was the response I received yesterday to the points raised.

Phil Sykes (Director of Libraries, Museums and Galleries) at the University of Liverpool in a written response stated:

I’m writing in response to the email you send[sic] to Laura Dunn about access to the University Library for members of the public, and our new policy of asking for a £5 contribution to library costs for external members. I would make the following points:

1. We think this is a proportionate approach that sensibly balances our desire to be open to the public with protecting the interests of students who are making a financial contribution to their education over and above that of the taxpayer.

2. The restriction to university members only during exam time is because the libraries are often full, and it would be unfair to deny students a place because members of the public, or students from other universities, are using the Library. I’m sure you would agree that it would be wrong to exclude students in order to make spaces available to members of the public.

3. £5 is a very low tariff. It is such that it would not prevent someone with a real need using us, but would encourage people to consider alternative possibilities.

4. Even with the introduction of the charge, our approach is more liberal, welcoming to the public and inclusive than any other research-intensive university in the country

5. “Graduate” was used as a catch-all term, but we would apply it to anyone who has undertaken substantial graduate level study and has gained a qualification at the University


The Liverpool Guild of Students (the student union for Liverpool University) was asked for a response to the change of policy before publication, but have not responded.

I have strongly held views about libraries, whether these are Wirral Council run libraries (which I campaigned against closing) or indeed in this case libraries at the University of Liverpool as I see libraries as being good for society.

Charging someone for a service that is paid for through taxation is of course in the realm of politics and can often be controversial. I personally disagreed with the introduction of university tuition fees and campaigned against these while a university student. Indeed part of the reason why I left a political party in 2012 was because I felt that campaigning in a general election to abolish tuition fees then in government increasing them was wrong.

Tuition fees do deter some from studying at university.

The world of academia and research thrives only as a result of collaboration and goodwill with those outside any one academic institution. Putting multiple barriers in the way to the use of a library for learning or study (whether financial or other) to outsiders whereas it may bring a small financial benefit to the University of Liverpool, is outweighed by a larger intangible disbenefit to its reputation.

If you wish to make your views on this matter known to the University of Liverpool, contact details can be found on this page on their website. Phil Sykes (Director of Libraries, Museums and Galleries) can be emailed at

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  1. I notice the University of Liverpool are currently in the process of hiring a library assistant for 17.5 hours a week.

  2. Wonder how long it will be that this low tariff of £5.00 a year will go up each year!
    Bloody cheek!

    • Thanks for your comment, I’d had that thought too. Once the principle of charging is established, organisations do have a habit of increasing them.

      To give an example from elsewhere, Mersey Tunnel tolls for a car are £1.70 now, but look likely to rise to £1.80 in April (although a decision won’t be made until next month).