Monday, February 26, 2007

Hypothetical discourse

I have been pondering this post for several days now, dithering back and forth while deciding if I should address the topic. I will begin by reiterating I work in an academic library and, as is the case with most any profession, nine days out of ten I very much enjoy my job. What follows is my opinion only and has no bearing or ramification upon my place of employment or anyone affiliated with the university.

Academic libraries can be wonderful places filled with students, faculty, staff, and administration empowered by learning and reaching for a similar goal. But some days, that tenth day, it is clear academic environments are a political abyss. I have little or no patience for the games people play. If you come into the library with a reference question, I do not care if you are the president or the provost, a freshman or a senior, the service and assistance you get from me will be identical. To that end I have worked for the last six years, with full support from the library director, building a resource center that has become an integral part of the library and provides stellar support to the college of education.

Patrons making use of the resource center has easily quadrupled during this time, expanding to include more than just education students. The curriculum and juvenile collections have grown and developed exponentially and two years ago we outgrew our space. During that same period of time, each summer I evaluate and reassign portions of the collection in such a way that they continue to be viable. When a space within the library, double my current space, became available because of campus expansion, I went to the director with a plan. Not world domination, but a feasible plan to take over the larger space.

Committees were formed on campus and our plan was presented. Other spaces were becoming available and many departments were jockeying for position, looking out for their own interests (as was I). Last spring, after two years of meetings and preparation, space allocations were announced and the resource center plan was at the top of the list for our desired location. We had people from the university physical plant provide cost estimates and peruse the charts/floor plans for viability (they approved). All was in place for what was hoped to be a fall renovation.

Fall came and went with no visible progress; the project was on hold but hopes were still riding high. Our I.T. department used the space to store computers and spring renovations were discussed. At the end of the fall term, we were told another department was going to temporarily move into the space until their new offices were ready. Last week, we were informed the move was no longer temporary; deparment offices will remain in the space.

I find myself disappointed, discouraged and disheartened. Disappointed? Not only were the committee recommendations ignored, but the new tenants never even submitted a proposal for consideration. Ironically, I did have a student come to me early last fall informing me this deparment said they were getting the space. I passed on the tip to my boss who found it amusing because they were not being considered at the time. Discouraged? The library now must try to reorganize without the benefit of space. Each year I have worked at the university space has been taken from the library for other campus needs. Study rooms, quiet space, and group work areas have dwindled as a result. Disheartened? Our current administration has effectively determined office space is more important than library space for students, thus setting a tone for the entire campus.

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