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Davis, California

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Chancellor Katehi puts library restructuring on hold

Chancellor Linda Katehi placed a hiatus on the restructuring of UC Davis’ science libraries to allow for further input from faculty, students and staff.

Katehi sent a letter announcing the hiatus to faculty and library administration early last month addressing concerns over the proposed moving of Biology and Agricultural Sciences (BioAg) library collections.

“Many faculty wrote to me to express their concerns about the General Library’s proposal,” Katehi said in a statement. “With those concerns in mind, I thought it best to restart and to broaden the consultation process about the library’s budget challenges.”

Katehi charged the Provost and Academic Senate Chair with finding a new process for engaging faculty and gaining input to address the library’s 3.5 percent cut without jeopardizing the long-term quality of library services.

The proposed move was part of several tentative possibilities suggested for the restructuring of the UC Davis’ science libraries, and a response to increasing budgetary constraints. The move would make room for the collections currently housed at the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library (PSEL), which was slated for closure in August due to its close proximity to Shields.

“The administration looked at what would be the best course of action [in light of] the budget,” said Karen Andrews, head librarian for the PSEL. “Their thinking was that it would be better that we have three facilities in three very different geographic areas. Part of the Biological and Agricultural Sciences (BioAg) collections would then be moved to the health sciences library, and it’s not uncommon for a lot of health and medical sciences to be combined with biology.”

Though the decision of closing the PSEL was by no means popular, the argument for one less library for the sake of efficiency limited objections. However, the proposed move of the BioAg collections garnered an outcry of disapproval from faculty and staff and prompted Katehi to pause and restart consultation for restructuring the science libraries. The proposal entailed that the BioAg sciences collections housed at the centrally-located Shields Library would be relocated to the Carlson Health Sciences Library on the west side of campus next to Aggie Stadium.

“For most users, banishment of these materials to a peripheral bunker site speaks volumes of how trivial the administration considers the library to be,” wrote Geerat Vermeij, professor of geology in a letter to Dateline UC Davis. “It is an affront and an insult, to say nothing of a major inconvenience to those who do not bicycle or drive.”

Further controversy came in the development of said proposal, as many faculty and staff felt they were not consulted on the matter beforehand.

“We felt that all the planning done thus far has been done in secret and hasn’t involved the faculty,” said Axel Borg, librarian at Shields Library and the president of UC-AFT Local 2023, the union representing UC Davis librarians and lecturers. “I am personally grateful that [Katehi] is stepping in and starting over, because things weren’t done correctly the first time.”

Andrews emphasized, however, that the restructuring remains tentative and no plans have been finalized.

According to Andrews, the library spends most of its budget on two things: the collections, which comprise the books and journal subscriptions, and the staff to run and maintain the library. Budget cuts force the administration to take from these, and the most recent round has forced them to cut from both.

To lessen the impact of the cuts, the libraries will likely be making more journals available electronically, providing additional copies of journals that are only available in print, and also trying to keep unique materials on site. Andrews also points out the library’s existing free delivery service to ship materials between libraries.

“We realize that it will not be totally convenient for all people,” Andrews said. “But we hope some of the new services will be helpful.”

Gail Yokote and Helen Henry, acting co-university librarians have consulted with Provost Lavernia, the Academic Senate and ASUCD to facilitate the proposals process and accommodate different perspectives on the matter.

“We want the best outcome,” Andrews said. “We seek everyone’s ideas and contributions, through the formal comments process as well as informal discussions and in-person meetings. There’s lots of opportunity to help us shape a good path forward.”

ARNOLD LAU can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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