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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

Budget cuts close Physical Science and Engineering Library

Over 400,000 collections will be moved out of the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library in the next two years, as the library will close by 2011.

Faced with a 3.5 percent budget cut, librarians collaborated on how to cut the cost of maintaining their campus libraries. Following a recommendation from the Office of Resource Management and Planning to downsize the library, administrators announced that they will close the PSEL and move the majority of the books to Shields Library and the Carlson Health Sciences Library.

“Closing the PSEL wouldn’t be our choice, but given the reality of budget cuts something has to go,” said Karen Andrews, head librarian at the PSEL. “We think this is the best possible option and it will allow us to come out of this budget cut with the least amount of damage.”

Library administrators are confident that they will not lay off any library staff, given some employees will retire or leave their positions in the next two years. The remaining staff members will be relocated to different campus libraries.

The majority of the collection in the PSEL library will move to Shields Library. Some or all of the biological and agricultural sciences collections and librarians will be relocated to the Carlson Health Sciences Library. The remaining books will be recycled to other institutions, such as the Northern Regional Library Facility in Richmond, CA.

Many administrators are optimistic that the closure will in fact benefit the library and its patrons. Mainly, the books that will not stay within the UC Davis system are duplicates or have been moved online. The removal of these collections will free space and allow staff to be better positioned, Andrews said.

“This is actually going to preserve our resources,” she said. “The amount of money we will save will allow us to provide much better service in the end.”

Many students who use the PSEL facility to research or study do not believe the closure will debilitate their work, as most of the resources are available electronically in Shields as well as the PSEL.

“It is marginally more convenient to go from the Engineering buildings to the PSEL, so I don’t think that going to Shields is really that much further,” said Frank Maker. “Most of the other students in my lab rarely use the library anyway since the vast majority of the information available in our field is online.”

Several librarians involved in the budget cutting decision, however, have expressed concern that the closure will not serve the interests of the students and researchers on campus, as the Carlson Health Sciences Library is located far from the science buildings on campus, next to the new football stadium.

“This is one of the worst decisions I have ever seen a library make,” said Axel Borg, librarian subject specialist and librarian of over 25 years. “Library administrators want people to use the Carlson Health Science Library because it’s not getting a lot of use. One of the ways you do this is by putting the books a lot of students use out there. But now they’re going to have to walk over a mile to do their research. The deans are not thinking about the students and that’s just wrong.”

Borg also felt that he and his fellow librarians were not consulted as thoroughly as they should have been in the decision of making cuts.

“Most of us were unaware of this decision until they announced it last week,” he said. “We had to hear it from other faculty. But we’re the ones who work with these books and with the students who work with these books. We have a better sense of how things work best and they ignored us.”

In response, acting co-university librarians Gail Yokote and Helen Henry admitted that although the staff deliberated quite intensively on how to manage the library’s 3.5 percent target budget cut, there was still a minority who disagreed with the closure.

“There’s probably a perception that we haven’t communicated with our librarians,” Henry said. “The important thing to do is to look at the big picture here, which is that this is a standard response to a budget cut.”

Henry and Yokote also expressed optimism in the PSEL closure in that vacating the current building, located between the physics and chemistry buildings, would free space for campus usage.

“One less building allows us to really garner our resources,” Henry said. “We have gathered to identify the specifics of this relocation and now we’re going to see what the ripple effect will be.” Planners have not yet decided what the empty building will be used for. Administrators will begin examining the space in the coming years as the current library books and staff move to the new locations.


LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.





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