Don’t mess with the Fine Arts Library

Laura Doan

What’s a library without books? It isn’t a riddle. The answer is simple: It’s not a library anymore. 

Administrators are threatening to remove The Fine Arts Library’s on-site collection. Dean Doug Dempster, Provost Maurie McInnis and Lorraine Haricombe, the director of libraries, already relocated a substantial portion of the FAL’s collection to storage facilities to make space for a new School of Design and Creative Technologies — more than 150,000 materials this past year. These administrators notified, but neglected to consult, professors and students before taking their research materials. Now they’re deciding whether to sweep the remaining books from the fifth floor, and fine arts professors and students issued strong, clear feedback: “Don’t take the rest of our library.” 

Professors of Theatre and Dance, Butler School of Music and Art History issued joint letters opposing further removal, UT’s Faculty council adopted a resolution objection, fine arts students protested in front of the tower and at SXSW. This time, the University needs to listen to their demand. 

Administrators shouldn’t touch the fifth floor resources, and they should repatriate some of the removed materials that professors and students are requesting. The benefits of a physical, easily accessible library are too great to lose, and stripping the FAL of remaining materials would insult the fine arts community who are actively fighting to keep their library.

Immediate access to books is necessary for organized, in-depth research, but it can take days or even weeks to retrieve the materials UT has sent to storage. And without physical stacks, academics lose another essential element of research: discovery. Plan II and art history junior Keya Patel has spent a lot of her time in the FAL and found that when she goes looking for one book, she’ll often find an even better resource.“Often it’ll lead you to all these other books through the synergy of the library,” Patel said. The beauty of a library is the browsing — finding the best
possible sources in one place. 

UT risks losing prospective students and professors if they lose the FAL. Logan Larsen, studio art sophomore, said he was very unsure about pursuing art at UT, but the FAL was “one of the main reasons (he) decided to go to UT. ” Without it, future prospects like Larson, might enroll elsewhere — rightly feeling UT doesn’t invest in its art programs.

Administration also needs to prove that they respect the research of their current fine arts department. Anything less will further alienate fine arts professors and students who are already feeling devalued by their administration. Jeffrey C. Smith, art history professor and faculty leader of Save UT Libraries, said “I cannot remember in all my decades at UT, any year, any academic year where there’s been such terrible faculty and staff morale in the college of Fine Arts simply due to this library situation.”  

It’s unacceptable that UT has made their scholars feel this way. UT needs to regain the trust of faculty and students by bolstering fine arts resources, not stripping them. 

The clock is ticking on the administrative decision. The task force assembled by Dempster and Haricombe will issue their report on the proposal April 2. So if you’re a fellow student, professor, or alumnus, amplify the voices of our fine arts community that is fighting for their library. Take 30 seconds to help save the FAL by signing Save UT Libraries’ online petition. And if you’re a Fine Arts student, you can voice your concerns to your dean in person at a lunch meeting this March 27

In this last week, we need to make the protests as loud as possible so the administration can’t ignore it. 

Doan is an English and Plan II junior from Fort Worth.