Thursday, July 22, 2010

UCIrvine Report

The Library Task Force at UCIrvine has issued a lengthy report which we can hardly fail to blog. Irvine faces the budgetary challenges that are familiar to the rest of the UC system and the profession as a whole, however, the recommendations take a surprising turn. Foremost among the ways to save money is in the area of buildings. The recommendation calls for eliminating 30,000 asf of space currently allocated to the library which amounts to the entire sixth floor of the science library in return for savings of between $720,000 and $1,000,000 annually. The money savings will be realized by eliminating the leasing fees from the library budget and transferring them to other campus units that will occupy this space.

This recommendation is particularly remarkable for its divergence from the experience of other UCs. At UCDavis for example, recommendations to reduce hours at the library branches was vetoed by the administration as failing to save money and hurting the students. Another effort to close the Physical Science and Engineering Library for approximately the same reasons given by the UCIrvine report was blocked by outrage from the faculty and their direct appeal to the chancellor. Some also speculated that the cost of closing PSE and transferring its collection would outweigh any gains to the budget. UCIrvine's plan will bear watching in view of these considerations.

Eliminating library space raises its own problems which the report acknowledges. Chief among them is the survey result that study space in the library is one of its most highly prized qualities for users, especially students. The value of space lies in a place of quiet to study, an area for intellectual exchange and a symbolic retreat. The report suggests reorganization of the available space and the conversion of other spaces outside the library such as the student center as alternative solutions.

The report also cites the need for improved document delivery of print resources. This correlates a submerged theme in other literature that the difficulties that users face with libraries are less in finding useful resources as is often mentioned but in the seemingly more mundane process of retrieving them. The case of print document delivery is one case of a more general problem of navigating among multiple libraries, interlibrary loan interfaces, and SFX links.

Finally, in the midst of budgetary woes, the report issues the somewhat surprising recommendation to hire more staff. The practice that has been in place (familiar at other UCs) has been to reorganize by closing positions vacated by attrition and consolidating staff, but the report claims that the process will be inadequate shortly if it has not already and erodes the library's effectiveness.

Thus, the report reverses two common themes of budget control by calling for a reduction in space and an increase in staff.

UCIrvine: Library task force report, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, 2010.