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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Shields Library faces declining services due to budget cuts

Budget reductions have afflicted the Peter J. Shields Library this year, prompting changes to library services.

In 2008-2009, Shields Library experienced a $500,000 base budget reduction. In 2009-2010, it has thus far seen a cut of $565,000.

The $565,000 cut was divided into a $250,000 reduction to the library collections and $265,000 reduction to staff and library positions. Administrators cut part of the personnel expenditures from the Staff and Academic Reduction in Time (START) program. START acts as a UC-wide program where eligible employees may, with the approval with their department, reduce their working hours and corresponding pay between 5 percent and 50 percent.

However, the reduction could have been bleaker. According to a 2009-2010 budget reduction plan analysis by the Office of Resource Management and Planning, administrators considered 5-to-7-percent cuts, which would have totaled between $920,000 and $1,130,000.

“These are challenging times for all of us,” said Helen Henry, acting co-university librarian. “We wish to identify forward-looking strategies that learn from the past and represent innovative thinking and perspectives, so that the library is positioned to turn challenges into opportunities.”

Axel Borg, a UC Davis librarian, said maintaining quality while the budget is reduced and the student population is expanding would be problematic.

Library expenditures hovered around $19 to $21 million from 1998 to 2008, but total student population has increased from 24,866 in 1998 to 31,426 in 2008.

“The library is remaining the same, but the funding is not,” Borg said, “so our budget is not keeping pace with the additional demands on it.”

Borg says there have also been reductions in library services.

Three service points in the library for helping students have been cut to just one. Additionally, there are fewer students working in the library. Borg said the library is now taking longer to reshelf and bring out materials for use.

The number of librarians and staff have also declined.

Shields Library employed 66 librarians in 1991-1992; however, that number decreased to 52 by 2006-2007. Total positions dropped from 334 in 1991-1992 to 266 in 2006-2007.

Henry and Gail Yokote, acting co-university librarians, said that of the $500,000 reduction in 2008-2009, $240,500 was from the elimination of student staffing positions. As of 2009-2010, the same budget has not taken a hit.

The administrators said they are experimenting with two services to maintain quality in light of budget reductions. The first is to not schedule librarians on nights and weekends, but to place them at a general reference desk on Sunday afternoons.

“We have looked at our statistics of use for the Shields Library night and weekend reference service and found that the volume of use was low enough that it didn’t warrant having a schedule on a regular basis,” Yokote said.

The other experiment is a digital reference service that all 10 UC campuses are participating in. This nation-wide and international service will have librarians provide reference service through digital chat. The librarian may not be a subject expert, but he or she can refer them to a subject expert.

Reductions have prompted the library to reorganize some of its collections to reduce cost. The UC Davis library webpage lists proposals to restructure the science libraries.

The Physical Sciences and Engineering Library will potentially be consolidated into the Shields Library while the Biological-Agricultural Sciences (Bio-Ag) materials on the third floor of Shields will potentially relocate to Carlson Health Sciences Library.

Some faculty members have expressed worry about how quickly the plans may be implemented. Winder McConnell, professor of German and chair of the Letters and Sciences Library Committee, said that the process should be slowed down.

UCD Academic Senate Executive Committee should gather more information and evaluate the costs that will be saved and its effects on faculty and students before the plan progresses, McConnell said in an e-mail interview

The administrators said that they are spending more time to consult broadly and no final plan has been enacted.

“We’re doing our homework so that we can present a lot of different scenarios that faculty and students can react to,” Yokote said.

LESLIE TSAN can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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