By Arianna Puopolo
City on a Hill Press Editor
After suffering extensive budget cuts campuswide, UC Santa Cruz is feeling the squeeze as every academic unit tightens the belt another notch. The most recent casualty of the budget is a library service, the existence of which is considered imperative for many faculty members.
The document delivery service, which makes research more feasible for faculty with time constraints or physical impairments by delivering requested documents to faculty mailboxes, will end with the quarter.
After finalizing their decision to dissolve the service, campus librarians Ginny Steel and Elizabeth Cowell met a show of resistance from staff and faculty.
The issue is especially complicated due to the fact that the decision was reached in what many consider to be complete disregard for a precedent of shared governance.
“The bigger story,” Bill Domhoff, professor emeritus said, “is if the library has failed to consult with that Committee [of the Libraries], they have violated shared governance.”
Domhoff uses the service often for his research in the social sciences.
Due to budget cuts, the library has reduced working hours and employment. According to the librarians, there are currently 12 vacant positions at the library, and no money to fill them.
To avoid cutting more hours, the librarians said, document delivery was eliminated.
“We wanted to balance the cuts among all of our users,” said assistant librarian Cowell.
She and head librarian Steel agree that the decision is justified in light of the new budget.
“It’s a very rare luxury service,” Cowell said. “In hard budget times, perks go away.”
However, the implications of terminating this program could include creating inaccessibility and inconvenience for physically limited faculty members.
The Academic Senate’s Committee of the Libraries (COL) is a body of governance that exists to consult with the administration and represent faculty interests.
Earth and planetary science professor Elise Knittle serves as chairperson.
“On our campus, as on all UC campuses, the academic senate and the administration try to work together on a system we call shared governance,” Knittle said.
In the case of document delivery, the library did not consult with the committee before making a decision.
The lack of consultation with the committee struck a nerve for many faculty and committee members.
“Normally I would expect, I would hope, that the library would feel it necessary and appropriate to consult with the committee of the libraries,” Knittle said.
COL member and associate professor of history Brian Catlos is an avid user of the document delivery service and advocate of its preservation.
Catlos was concerned about the library’s decision to act without consulting the COL.
“We were simply told that this was happening and we’d better deal with it, and it’s completely inappropriate for the library to behave that way,” he said.
The dissolution of document delivery was first announced at a Jan. 27 meeting, when assistant head of access services Sarah Troy met with a few members of COL.
Sources from COL recollect that “COL discussed the cancellation announcement during the Jan. 27 [meeting] and expressed our opinion that, if there was ever an issue that might require consultation between the library and COL, this was it. Sarah [Troy] seemed clear that the decision was made.”
Although the library projects that the dissolution of the service will save them $40,000, Catlos said that the extent to which faculty would be inconvenienced makes the decision inequitable.
However, both Cowell and Steel insist that the number of faculty who currently use the service are a minority.
Steel cited campus statistics, saying that there are 5,537 people eligible for the service and, according to library records, less than 200 people regularly make requests each year.
The library receives a total of 3,000 requests annually.
“It’s not intended to be a value judgment,” Cowell said. “There was no attempt to say that the library is more valuable than faculty.”
Deanna Shemek, Cowell co-provost and literature professor, is another benefactor of the service. She is also skeptical about the legitimacy of this decision.
“[Document delivery] was money very well spent given the value of faculty time,” Shemek said. The dissolution of the service “is a denigration of the value of faculty time,” she said.
Domhoff said that, in addition to disrespecting shared governance, cutting the document delivery service compromises the campus’s capacity to facilitate research.
“[It’s] a seemingly small thing that hits at the heart of research for the social sciences and humanities,” Domhoff said.
Still, the way the decision was made is only part of the conflict, as many are concerned about the ability of the library’s most mature patrons to access the site.
However, Cowell promised that the library is working toward increasing accessibility.
“In terms of solutions we can provide,” she said, “we’re having to advocate for physical changes as far as parking layout.”
Despite these promises, many of those affected by document delivery’s elimination remain unsettled by the inconvenience the absence of the service will cause. A primary concern is the ability of geriatric faculty to access the library.
“They are going to be effectively shut out from the library even if they provide two or three more parking spaces,” Catlos said.
The dissolution of the document delivery service is not a solution to the budget problem, Knittle said. Instead of eliminating a cost, it reallocates the responsibility to the faculty.
“While you can pose it as a luxury service to the users, it is another shift of work to faculty that takes away time from their teaching and research,” she said. “The larger issue for many people who work here is that one unit’s budget cut becomes another unit’s problem.”
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