Proposed Consolidation of Branch Libraries
By now you will have examined the proposed budget reductions that were posted this morning on the Planning and Budgeting web site. As part of that cut, the Libraries are proposing to consolidate its two branch libraries – the Music Library and Huxley Map Library. It was the Provost who ultimately made the decision regarding this reduction; a decision that was made very late in the game but which I very much support.
What do we mean by consolidation? This means we would be moving the two branches collections into the main library. This decision was made for a number of reasons.
First, because of the economy. The cut will allow the Libraries to reduce two positions, an hourly employee, as well as student help, saving a total of over $140,000 a year. It will also allow the University to consolidate some services from leased spaces and bring them back to the campus, saving approximately $50,000.
Secondly, it will allow us to provide what we hope will be even better service to our users. Why? Because the materials will be available longer hours than what is currently possible in the branches. Materials which have previously been restricted by policy and by geography will be more accessible and should get greater use.
Thirdly, usage of the branches has declined over the last several years. Three staff and several students serve a total of only 2.8 users per hour now in the Music Library. This is a lot of human capital to support a low-used service. A similar situation exists with the Huxley Map Library.
Fourth, it will allow the Libraries to preserve essential operations - information resources and research help – which are essential to all students and faculty success and scholarship.
Lastly, the consolidation of branches is a trend happening in academic libraries across the country, in an effort to save money and ensure high quality service. Just last year, UW chose to close three of its branch libraries. The reality is that these branches have become very expensive to operate and under the current economic climate, that expense can no longer be justified.
I’ve attached a number of internal reports which will provide data and statistics and help to make the case for what are painful but strategic reductions. One provides a more eloquent rendering of the rationale for consolidating branch libraries that I listed above. The second, concerning the music library, is an update of a document previously posted to this blog, with additional data included. Lastly, the third report is on the Huxley Map Library. This last report is an update of an earlier report I was asked to prepare for then Provost Dennis Murphy regarding the change of administration of the Huxley Map Library to the Libraries. It includes a lot of useful background information about the collection, as well as usage data and rationale as to why consolidation is a logical approach and one that will (hopefully) have little impact on service.
Currently, there is no expected timeline for this consolidation – we just know it will happen in the next year, and it cannot happen immediately. I’ll be working with the faculty and students in both Music and Huxley to determine the details.
One-time dollars are available to be used to move the collections and outfit appropriate space in the main library. We will be preparing an FAQ to answer some of the specific questions you may have about what all this will mean and when it will happen.
Eliminating the branch libraries and consolidating them into the main library is a difficult decision and one that will impact a number of loyal library users throughout the campus, but ultimately will allow the Libraries as an organization to continue to provide the high quality information resources and services that you, our students, faculty and staff of this campus, expect.
I look forward to your assistance and feedback in how we will manage and implement this decision. Also, if you have additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.