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University libraries will experience unprecedented structural change; no full scan | News

Editor’s note: The names of sources who asked to remain anonymous have been changed or removed to protect their identities.

As more structural changes continue to unfold within Texas A&M, the administration has recently come under fire for its supposed plans for the future of university libraries and its employees.

The University Libraries currently consist of five campus libraries operated by 147 faculty and staff, 81 of whom are tenured or tenure-track faculty. With President M. Katherine Banks’ publication of The Path Forward, multiple modifications were made to the original recommendations of MGT of American Consulting regarding the functions and composition of A&M’s academic libraries and its many employees. However, rumors that the administration intends to fully digitize libraries were denied by Chief Operating Officer Greg Hartman and Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications Kelly Brown in comments to The Battalion.

“Despite rumors, Texas A&M is not transforming the library into an all-digital unit, nor will the entire library be transformed into office space. Libraries will continue to play a vital role in helping our students and faculty excel “Brown said. “We will still have physical books and modernize technology both inside and outside the building for research and study, while creating better accessibility to information by We have incredible collections at both the Sterling C. Evans Library and the Cushing Library, and these will remain prioritized and protected.

The initial recommendation of the MGT report suggested placing university libraries under the College of Arts and Sciences and creating a library science department. MGT’s final report, released on October 19, 2021, recommended structural change to university libraries, moving it to the new College of Arts and Sciences and led by a university librarian who would work with the provost’s office.

“Teacher-librarians will have the status of professors in this new department. The Dean of the Library will become the Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and University Librarian. This new Associate Dean and Academic Librarian would continue to oversee all library operations and lead faculty-librarians in teaching and scholarship excellence,” the report states.

Banks, in response, changed this recommendation, suggesting that university libraries instead be transformed into a service unit headed by an “academic librarian” who would report to the provost.

“Because of the central role of library systems in the success of any university, Banks rejected MGT’s recommendation to place academic libraries in the College of Arts and Sciences, modifying it instead to move libraries under a “unit of department “.” The Path Forward Document reads.

Banks further reiterated the importance of the university library system, but clarified his decision to change the current status of the institution.

“There is no doubt that the libraries provide a vitally important service to the entire campus. Therefore, I agree that academic libraries do not belong to a single college and that the Cushing library should remain in libraries,” Banks said in the document. “However, I believe that a significant change is needed in the administrative structure of libraries. The University Libraries will be administratively changed to become a service unit to effectively and efficiently provide superior service to the campus community. »

Banks instructed Task Force 14 to review these recommendations which provide librarians with two options: either stay on as faculty and seek a new department to maintain their tenure-track and tenure-track status, or convert faculty members to staff. , revoking their tenure and status leading to tenure. status.

“As a service unit, university libraries will no longer serve as a permanent residence for professors. Full and tenure-track faculty currently in the University Libraries will be housed in a new departmental house with a full-time position in the University Libraries Service Unit,” the document states.

A professor at A&M, who will be referred to as “Dr. O” for purposes of anonymity, said he did not understand the omission of the research role or the need to designate the library as a “service unit.”

“By nature, a library is a service organization and they are service units. What worries me is the lack of use of the word ‘research’ as ​​we are a Tier 1 research institution and our library is currently one of the best in the country,” said Dr O .

An anonymous college librarian, “Dr. E,” said there is an important distinction between the administrative status of faculty and staff librarians.

“As faculty librarians, we are able to apply for grants, collaborate with outside faculty,” Dr. E said. “Much of what we do is in partnership with other faculty members. faculty outside the library. It also provides us with a seat on the Faculty Senate and Honor Board where librarians can contribute to the academic mission of the university.

Regarding the retention and recruitment of librarians, Dr E said he was concerned that there would be “fewer librarians dedicated to helping students with their research and helping faculty members with their projects” .

Another unnamed faculty librarian, “Dr. Y,” expressed concern about student achievement and the library’s ability to provide resources with possible changes to come.

“I think it won’t be as obvious at first, and it’s going to be a slow bleed, especially for older students who are used to some level of help from librarians and library staff,” said the Dr. Y. “I don’t want to underestimate; our library team [is] incredible. They will see it go down.

Dr. O said they participated in a separate focus group of A&M professors and MGT consultants outside of the official Path Forward working group and said a topic MGT consultants asked them about during the group meeting on February 25 was University Libraries. scanning.

Asked about this additional focus group, Hartman said MGT consultants are currently conducting interviews for further library research. However, he said there were no plans to transition libraries to all digital services.

“MGT Consulting, who of course did the original report, we asked them to do some additional library-based interviews with librarians and staff to understand the concerns, just dig a little deeper into what’s going on in the library,” said Hartman said. “It’s just to gather additional information for the good of the task force.”

The University Libraries System has issued a statement acknowledging support for their library resources. The statement notes Task Force 14 and its work for the “library of the future.”

“Unfortunately, at this time the only information we have is that we are continuing our work by participating in Task Force #14 on the way forward, which is tasked with looking at the future of the library faculty and includes now the vision for the library of the future,” the statement read. “We were told that the responses provided by stakeholders will form the basis of a report due in mid-April. We thank all those who expressed their support for university libraries.

Dr E said they were deeply concerned about the possible changes.

“My concern about this is twofold. I am concerned about the effect this will have on the retention and recruitment of librarians. Texas A&M is renowned for its library and that’s because we’re able to recruit and retain excellent library faculty,” said Dr. E. “I’m also very concerned that moving librarians out of of the library will do for the services, collections and resources that the library provides to campuses. I fear that this will have an impact on the teaching and research mission of the university.

Sophomore English student Lauren Head, a representative for the English department, has started a petition against the administration’s plans for college libraries. The petition has garnered over 2,600 signatures at the time of publication.

“Discussing this proposal with other undergraduate students, I have yet to receive a positive response. On the contrary, I have received great concern that this may be the first step in a larger movement to censorship of literature here on campus,” the petition reads. “What we are seeing is a sweeping devaluation of not only the book, but our faculty members, and we will not sit idly by while this decision is made.”

Similarly, Elizabeth Parry, president of the English Graduate Student Association, wrote a letter to President Banks which was obtained by The Battalion.

“My colleagues and I rely on the expertise and hard work of librarians to help us identify available research materials either through [the library] system or interlibrary loan [librarians] maintain with universities across the country,” the letter read.

With the changes presented to Task Force 14, faculty members said they felt undervalued and looked elsewhere for career opportunities.

“I feel devalued. I think the work we do is important,” said Dr. E. “I think the work we do is important to our fellow faculty. I feel like whichever option we choose, we will lose some of the opportunities to contribute to the campus in the ways we have tried for so long. All the librarians I spoke to are looking for a job.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of faculty and staff who currently work for university libraries. The Battalion regrets this error.

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