NewsHouse: SU students, library officials and others discuss one of the library’s growing challenges: Too many books.
Student Savanna Kemp felt outraged when she heard the Syracuse University Library planned to move 100,000 books per year to a storage facility more than four hours away.
Kemp organized a Facebook group in opposition to the plan, which attracted nearly 350 students, and spoke out at Student Association and University Senate meetings about the dilemma. After hearing the opinions of Kemp and other students, library officials put the plan on hold last month.
“It was really heartening to see we were listened to,” says Kemp, a junior majoring in English and women’s studies.
Kemp and more than 100 others turned out for a forum at E.S. Bird Library on Dec. 9. The hour and a half-long forum, called “What is a Library?”, featured questions from the audience about the library’s priorities heading into the future.
The meeting centered on the plan to relocate the books to a warehouse in Patterson, N.Y. The goal of the plan, library officials say, was to make more study space for students and to create additional capacity for new collections.
Charlotte Hess, associate dean of collections for research and scholarly communication, says she regularly sees every seat taken on the first three floors of the library.
“They’re working, they’re using it,” she says. “I would hate to see it go away.”
Hess says keeping the books in Syracuse could mean taking away additional study space for students. She says the library did extensive research and explored every possible option before deciding on the plan to relocate the books to the storage facility.
“There are a lot of perceptions about the decisions that were made that weren’t accurate,” she says.
Dale King, an assistant dean for the library, says that of the $17 million annual library budget, $7 million is appropriated for collections. About $9.3 million goes to salary and benefits, which only leaves about $700,000 for additional improvements to the library each year. King emphasizes that the library does not have that much extra cash to make these changes and improvements.
Kemp sees the tight budget as part of a larger problem.
“They have this master plan but they have no money to go through with it,” she says, adding that the university needs to set aside a larger budget for the library.
Hess says the library is continuing to evaluate its options and will take into consideration the feedback that it received from those who attended the Dec. 9 session.
“If this did nothing else than help people understand that there are different needs, than that is a positive outcome.,” she says.