The following is a guest contribution from a Union Library Workers reader:
St. Cloud State University recently announced that it intends to lay off (retrench) four faculty librarians (out of a total of twelve still working in the library after years of positions lost through attrition), along with three faculty from the Philosophy Department and one from Theatre. (See a post about the retrenchments in Philosophy here: https://leiterreports.typepad.
com/blog/2019/08/philosophy- and-tenured-faculty-jobs- under-threat-at-st-cloud- state-university.html)
The four librarians the administration is proposing be laid off are all tenured and have worked at SCSU for more than 11 years. The only two permanent, full-time library employees (not counting student workers) who are people of color are among those targeted for retrenchment. (Retrenchment happens in seniority order.)
The SCSU administrators behind this decision do not appear to understand the role or value of a modern academic library (and they are clearly not listening to the librarians at their own institution).
The university’s “considerations” for targeting the library can be found on page 41 of this document: http://www.scsufa.org/minutes/
Here’s a quote:
“Because faculty and students are the primary users or library services, a corresponding decrease in the demand for library services has resulted. This decreased demand is evidenced in a number of ways. The total number of reference inquiries decreased 20.5% from FY18 (3,022) to FY19 (2,401). The circulation of print books decreased (90%) from 163,000 in 1993 to less than 16,000 in 2016. Spending on print resources, due to diminishing demand, decreased 94.6% from FY13 ($154,933) to FY18 ($8,242)**.”
This justification looks exclusively at library services that have declined, and ignores all of the services that have increased or been newly implemented over the same period. (Yes, circulation of print books is down, but electronic resources… hello?)
Library colleagues and supporters, please email the SCSU administration and debunk this obsolete picture of an academic library that is focused on circulating print books and reference desk transactions.
SCSU President Robbyn Wacker firstname.lastname@example.org
SCSU Provost Daniel Gregory email@example.com
University Library Dean Rhonda Huisman firstname.lastname@example.org
SCSU Faculty Association President Frances Kayona email@example.com