Faculty, students: Relocation of Fine Arts Library resources doesn’t stack up

Brooke Vincent

A typical meeting for the Faculty Council on Monday became a two-hour forum about the concerns of faculty and students surrounding the relocation of 150,000 resource materials from the Fine Arts Library and possible future renovations.

Maurie McInnis, executive vice president and provost of UT, addressed concerns about the loss of relocated scores, bound volumes, CDs and DVDs from the fourth floor. Over the course of the last year, stacks were relocated to the J.J. Pickle Research Campus and the Joint Library Facility in College Station to make space for the Foundry and classrooms for the new School of Design and Creative Technologies.

“We do not have the ability to add significant new square footage,” McInnis said. “We simply do not have room on campus to be able to store every volume that we own, but we also insure that we keep those collections so that they are always accessible.”

Doug Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, appointed two task forces on Dec. 8 to assess alternative uses for the space on the fifth floor, which currently houses books. The groups, made up of faculty, librarians and students, will report their findings on April 2. This could remove additional books from the Fine Arts Library, depending on the alternatives that are adopted.

“I think the single most important thing to reiterate is that no decision has been made regarding the Fine Arts Library,” McInnis said. “(The) task force (will) study the usage of the Fine Arts Collection and evaluate the possibilities for housing and managing the collections that are currently concentrated on the fifth floor.”

A main complaint of staff was the lack of consultation with the departments before renovations and removal of books from the fourth floor began. McInnis said that librarians met with faculty in art history, music and theatre, and dance to brief them on the fourth-floor renovations, but faculty members said they were never consulted on what books should be removed.

“We were being informed of what the decisions had been,” said Richard Shiff, art history professor. “We had no input on those decisions. If there had been consultation, I believe that the selection of books to be removed would have been different, but there was no consultation.”

The College of Fine Arts website said books relocated off-site would be available in one to three business days, but professors who have tested this claim have seen books take anywhere from eight to 18 days to arrive.

“At this point I can’t recommend a standard recording to a student of mine, because the materials have been put in storage,” said Miguel Campinho, lecturer in collaborative piano. “I assigned two classes of mine a set of four songs. The time comes for me to use them and pass along to the students, one copy was lost and one was in transit. Two weeks later I had access to it.”

Classics professor Thomas Palaima said he sees this University issue as a national trend where libraries are being pushed to innovate and get rid of the stacks, which cannot be completely replaced in a digital space.

“My main concern is that we see what’s going on here as part of a national trend,” Palaima said. “‘What starts here changes the world,’ but why not ‘What stops here changes the world’?”