Students Discuss Future of Libraries at Forum

Andrew Oh/UCSD Guardian

A student forum on the future of campus libraries took place on April 19 in Price Center Theater, during which a panel of university librarians and student leaders discussed the budget issues affecting these resources.

With a current budget of $25.2 million, campus libraries currently receive revenue from state funds, indirect cost recovery funds (money the university receives for services that use grants) and endowments.

The budget is spent in three ways. According to University Librarian Brian Schottlaender, 62 percent is set aside for services and operations, while collections make up 28 percent and miscellaneous expenses, such as technology and administrative costs, account for 10 percent of the budget.

Schottlaender presented the libraries’ proposed budget. According to Schottlaender, the budget has been reduced by almost $5 million since 2008, and there has been an increased use of library services despite having no new additions to the budget.

This year, the libraries cut costs by eliminating 38 positions that specialized in user services, administrative and technical support. Schottlaender said the bulk of the services budget is in salaries, but libraries have already cut $2.4 million in staff salaries.

The libraries department closed the Medical Center Library in Hillcrest on April 1, cut the hours of Geisel and Biomedical Libraries by 12 percent in September 2010 and reduced the Geisel Library service points — the reference, reserve and circulation desks throughout the library.

In addition, the library system has extended public computer replacements from four to five years, discontinued the main campus intra-library book delivery service and has started to phase out mediated circulation in the Geisel and Biomedical libraries.

Schottlaender said the libraries were told to prepare for a $3 million cut. In response, they are proposing to close four more campus libraries: Science and Engineering, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, CLICS and IR/PS, as well as consolidating these collections into the Biomedical Library. These libraries could close as early as this summer.

Closing the Medical Center. SIO and S&E Libraries would cut $645,000 from the budget, while closing CLICS cuts $450,000 and closing IR/PS cuts $345,000.

The floor was then opened up for student input.

Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Olushade Unger asked if the closure of the Medical Center Library was permanent and if a student fee referendum was necessary to prevent this. Associate University Librarian Catherine Friedman said they will finish clearing out the library within the next few weeks.

A.S. President Wafa Ben Hassine said a fee proposal would have to come through A.S. Council and the Graduate Student Association. GSA president John Alaniz added that if a student fee were proposed, students should have oversight to make sure the university does not misuse funds.

Marshall College junior Jordan Liss asked if this student referendum trend could benefit the library situation.

Alaniz, Schottlaeder and GSA Legislative Liaison Kristopher Nelson responded by saying that spreading the message of the budget crisis is important.

Schottlaeder said he’s in regular contact with the administration in regard to the budget cuts.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not talking to administration,” Schottlaeder said. “That’s what I get paid to do. Having said that, there are so many competing demands for what is a relatively small pool of donors in San Diego. There’s a saying in library development that the library is everybody’s second favorite thing. If there’s a cancer center, then that will be chosen over the library.”