Medical library may make way for lab

Otago Medical Students' Association council members Michael Catterall (20), Adele MacGregor (22) and Benjamin Grant (20) are  concerned  over University of Otago plans to relocate the medical library. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Otago Medical Students' Association council members Michael Catterall (20), Adele MacGregor (22) and Benjamin Grant (20) are concerned over University of Otago plans to relocate the medical library. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

The University of Otago is planning to relocate its animal testing labs, after the spread of parasitic worms.

The university yesterday confirmed it was investigating moving the labs to Sayers Building, where its medical library is housed, and an advertisement for a fixed-term role managing the relocation of the library to an ''interim site'' was posted on the university website.

The plan has angered medical students, who fear they will lose access to the only study space in the university's health precinct. The university, in a statement prepared by several staff members, said there had been infections among the animal population in its testing facilities.

A planned upgrade of the facilities was part of the $650 million building programme it announced last week.''

Some recent infections amongst our animal populations, as is encountered in similar facilities worldwide, have highlighted the need for us to upgrade our equipment and facilities, hence this project's high priority on the priority development plan.''

The Otago Daily Times understands the animals were infected with a parasitic worm.

The situation posed no risk to the health of researchers and other staff.

''The university has been running animal facilities for decades and the health and safety of staff and students working in these environments, and the welfare of the animals being housed, is taken very seriously.''

Changes had already been made to procedures as a result of the infections, including the introduction of an individually ventilated housing system.

Despite the advertising of a job managing the relocation,the university said it was yet to make a final decision on whether the project involved relocating the medical library, which is spread over three floors in the Sayers Building.''

In order to upgrade systems to international best practice significant redesign is required, whether in the existing or a new location.''

Otago Medical Students' Association president Elizabeth Berryman said she had been given the impression the medical library was ''definitely'' being relocated.

This upset students, because it was the only study space for health science students in the health precinct, Ms Berryman said.

Ms Berryman, who was part of a committee formed by the association to fight the move, had discussed the issue with health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Peter Crampton and chief operating officer John Patrick, but felt student concerns were being ignored.

The association had offered to help pay for a new study space or cafe where medical students could congregate.

''They just don't seem to be interested.''

She had been told the medical library would be relocated to the central library, which students ''wouldn't go to'', due to the distance from the rest of the health precinct.

The medical school was already disjointed compared with those overseas, she said.

In response to Ms Berryman's comments, the university said it accepted an appropriate study space for students was required in, or near, the health precinct.

''No change will happen without alternative study space being provided.''

There was no intention for the central library to house the alternate study space.

The university's animal research facilities underpinned about $20 million of annual research activity ''focused on important health and biomedical questions''.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Animals vs students

My flatmate and I study in the Med school library and are shocked to hear that animal labs are moving in there. Do we actually still need animal testing in 2014? The university is a place for learning and we need the library as a study space. Are the animals more important than the students? Where is the library moving?

Nadine and Jack