Friday, November 20, 2009

A Win for the Stacks

by Jennifer Epstein
The Syracuse University Library system is facing the classic book-lover’s dilemma: too many volumes, not enough shelves. The stacks in the flagship Ernest S. Bird Library are at 98 percent capacity, the on-campus archives are totally full and dozens -- if not hundreds -- of new volumes flood in each day.

Suzanne E. Thorin, dean of libraries, thought she had a solution. Her plan was to ship rarely used or redundant texts 250 miles southeast of campus, to a storage facility in Patterson, N.Y. Readers and researchers would’ve been able to request books before 2 p.m. one business day and receive them the next. Space in Bird would be freed up for new acquisitions, study halls and classrooms.

But that plan went awry Wednesday night when more than 200 faculty and students flocked to first public airing of the issue, a University Senate meeting. Some held signs protesting the proposal (one read "FREE BIRD"). Some spoke against the move on the grounds that library space had been misallocated while others questioned the need to ship the books so far away from campus. Faculty members delivered a petition against the plan signed by more than 100 humanities scholars, whose fields would be hurt more than others by the book relocation.

Now, Thorin and the library staff are reconsidering the options for the university’s 1.1 million books, as well as other library materials. “We have reached our capacity and need to figure out some way to get the space we need,” she said in an interview Thursday. “We haven't signed a contract yet and we're open to more discussion before we make a final decision.”
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