April 2, 2009

Students Petition Against Closing of Science Library

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The University, in an attempt to maintain economic buoyancy, has had to reduce the variety of services offered, often to the chagrin of the students. One recent example was the closing of the Physical Sciences Library in Clark Hall, which generated much backlash from concerned students. The decision to close the library at the end of 2009 was made in early March by the University Library System in an effort to minimize its sizeable deficit.
“I have been a librarian for 30 years, working to develop and expand libraries, so it is quite difficult for me to take part in closing them,” said Janet McCue, assistant University librarian for teaching. “But we lost 15 percent of our endowment and need to cut $1.7 million from our budget for next year while still trying to maintain the utmost service for students.”
The factors that were included when deciding which libraries to close included amount of collections, size of study space and usage.
“With the study spaces becoming available upon opening of the Duffield-like atrium in the new Physical Sciences building, we realized that closing the PSL will have a lower impact than closing any other library on campus,” McCue said.
The Edna McConnell Clark Physical Science Library, founded in 1965 with the completion of Clark Hall, acts as a research focal point for studying the sciences, with the bulk of the library’s material related to physics, chemistry and astronomy. In addition to the over 104,930 volumes in circulation, the library offers hundreds of in-print and online journals and microforms relating to the subjects.
Even though the University noted that alternative, nearby spaces would be opening up for students’ study use, the library has been a popular study space, due to its central location on campus. Because of this, students — particularly those in the related fields of chemistry, physics, applied and engineering physics and astronomy — are enraged by the library’s closing.
“The PSL is a very convenient location for both printed and electronic resources. It is also a great space to study or rest, especially for people who frequent Baker/Clark /Rockefeller,” stated Baoqing Zhou ’11, who founded the Facebook group “Save Clark Physical Sciences Library”, in an email. “The PSL has also gained an emotional significance in the sense that it’s ‘our’ library. It’s our ‘home turf.’”
As of yesterday evening, 93 students have joined the Facebook group. In addition, 244 people have also signed an online petition aimed at keeping the library open.
“The PSL may not boast the foot traffic of Olin, Mann or Uris library, but for a solid core of students, the PSL is a convenient location for quiet study and group collaboration,” asserts the petition. “We understand the cuts need to come from somewhere, but we see this decision as a direct assault on the undergraduate population of the physical sciences.”
Munier Salem ’10, an AEP major and Sun columnist who helped draft the petition, stressed the significance of PSL.
“We initially drafted the petition because of how important the PSL is to the undergraduate experience in the physical sciences. The PSL is the only open space for study in the Clark/Baker/Rockefeller sciences buildings and, although the new physical sciences building will provide new space, it will not be available for an entire year after the library closes,” Salem said. “We know that the petition will most likely not save the library, but I think it will vocalize our concerns and give us a voice in the next stages of the closing.”
Although the decision to close the library is final, many aspects of its aftermath have yet to be hashed out. The space that is currently being occupied by the library still has no set use for next year, according to the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. While a majority of the periodicals will be available exclusively online, the library is still deciding where to place the reserves.
“We are trying to re-envision what a subject library will look like in the future by focusing more on electronic resources that can provide the same services in a digital environment. Although the physical branch will no longer be there, the individual subject support will still be available,” McCue said. “We will also be holding meetings and establishing a transition team of students and faculty so we can hear both their concerns and ideas. We hope that the closing of the Physical Sciences Library will not have a negative impact on the work that students and faculty do.”
There will be two meetings held on April 14 and 21 from 4:30-6:00 in Clark Hall to discuss the library closing. In addition, students who are interested in joining the transition team can email Janet McCue at jam7@cornell.edu for more information. Although the future of the library and its resources is uncertain, efforts are being made to ease the transition.