The University has confirmed its plan to transfer the 25,000 volumes currently housed in the Art Library in Davison Art Center (DAC) to Olin Library in the summer of 2014. Students gathered Tuesday evening at the University Organizing Center (UOC) to voice concerns about the decision.
Chair of Art and Art History Department Joseph Siry cited several problems with the current Art Library as reasons for the move, including climate control and more space. The Art Library reached its capacity in the 1990s, and since then the rest of the collection has been housed in Olin. In addition to the divided collection, the current library has no air conditioning, which can be harmful to the structure of the books.
“Books deteriorate over time if they are not properly cared for in terms of environmental controls,” Siry said. “The other problem is that more and more of the collection is [being] moved to Olin.”
According to Siry, the separation of the books across two locations prevents those who wish to use the Library’s collection from easily accessing resources.
“At different points in the last couple of years I’ve gone through the collections that relate to modern architecture that are in the Art Library,” Siry said. “There’s no space for more acquisitions, and since we get a large number of books every year, they ask me to choose which books should be pulled off the shelves and moved over to Olin.”
While the divided collection and climate capacities of the current library are problematic, there are downsides to moving the collection. The location of the art collection is a main concern for many students and professors.
“[There is the] desirability of having at least those 25,000 volumes at any one time, whatever those 25,000 volumes are, directly accessible to the students who are working in the art studios,” Siry said.
Studio Art major and Art Library student worker Becky Schisler ’14 emphasized the importance of the library’s proximity to the CFA.
“That is, I think, one of the main reasons why it is such an important part of campus,” Schisler said. “Its location is right in the center of the area where most of the students who use it have their classes.”
The library offers reference materials for art courses on campus, and many professors use books from the library during class. Art Librarian Susanne Javorski stressed the importance of the Art Library as a place where resources are easily accessible to students.
“The studio students are really going to be at a disadvantage,” Javorski said. “It’s kind of like removing the lab from [the science] department.”
The library serves as a meeting place for art students and provides a unique study space for them within the CFA.
“Outside of class, this is where art students find each other; they’re studying, they’re browsing collections, and they’re here,” Javorski said. “There’s a really strong community among the art students.”
The setting of the Art Library helps to encourage connections among art students. Many worry about losing the unique community and atmosphere provided by the library if the collections were to move to Olin.
“[With the current location] it’s nice that everything is in one place, and it’s a totally different vibe,” Schisler said. “It’s a very relaxed environment, it’s quieter, and it’s across campus.”
The committee in charge of creating a new Art Library proposal for the administration hopes to create a similar environment in Olin. According to Siry, the committee, which is composed of art professors and librarians, hopes to separate the art volumes from the rest of the Olin collection.
“If it were to go to Olin, then the collection would be as cohesive spatially, as possible,” Siry said. “In other words, there would be a part of Olin’s stack capacity that would be devoted to the Art collection and what’s in the Art Library.”
The new location for the art collection within Olin is still undetermined. The committee is considering a space on the third floor across from Scores and Recordings, effectively turning the third floor of Olin into an “arts floor.” Between the third floor and additional space for the oversized volumes in 3a, the committee expects that there would be enough room to house the entire collection.
“[That location] would hopefully have that sense of community and keep the collection together, making it more useful,” Javorski said.
The committee hopes to incorporate ample study spots and a concern for lighting into its design of the new space. The current Art Library has areas that are conducive to studying pieces of art and working with the large volumes. The committee hopes to find a space with large tables, chairs, and media equipment such as scanners, photocopiers, and computers.
“The other priority that we’ve talked a lot about is that the reading room—the space where people can study, lay out materials, and read current periodicals—should be as nice as possible,” Siry said.
The details of the collection’s transfer have yet to be finalized, because there is not yet sufficient space set aside in Olin. The weeding process of the University’s books will not be completed for a couple more years, and offices will have to be rearranged in Olin to accommodate the new volumes and staff. There is still a possibility that the collection would be separated across floors once it moves.
“If [the new Art Library collection] moves to Olin without having a separate art collection within it, the collection, even though it’d be under one roof, would still be in three places,” Javorski said. “Photography books would be in the basement, regular sized art books would be up on floor two, and the oversized art and photography books would be on 3a.”
Many students and faculty are concerned about the possible separation of the collection.
“The thought of all those art books just being randomly placed in Olin is pretty upsetting to a lot of people,” Schisler said. “It’s just a different library experience.”
The two libraries also use different shelving systems, which means the transition will be labor intensive. Many regular sized art books are oversized in Olin, because the shelves in Olin are 29 cm, in contrast with the Art Library’s 34 cm shelves.
Staffing for the new Art Library is another major concern. If the collection were spread out in Olin, it would be more difficult for students to access library employees for assistance with books or navigating the library’s catalogue. Due to space constraints, Javorski was unsure of how Art Library staffing would work within Olin.
“It depends how the new Art Library gets configured,” Javorski said. “We still don’t know what space we’re going to use, what office spaces there might be for space, what staff would be doing, whether there would be a separate reserve collection from the one downstairs, or what kind of reference collection there would be.”
The positions of the twelve work-study students who work in the Art Library are also vulnerable.
“All the students who work [at the Art Library now] would lose their jobs,” Schisler said.
When Schisler heard about the impending transfer during work at the library, she began to spread word to other student groups. She contacted the Zombie Art Collective, notified Wesleying, and is thinking of starting a petition to show the administration that the Art Library is an important part of campus for many different students.
“I think we’re going to have a petition to show the administration how many students really do care about this place,” Schisler said. “If there are problems with that particular building, then fine, but students care about there being an Art Library that is separate from Olin and the Science Library.”
Schisler also organized a community meeting with University Librarian Pat Tully, during which attendees could inquire about the reasons for and logistical details about the volumes’ move. The event, held in the University Organizing Center, was attended by about a dozen students who expressed their concerns with the plan.
The Art Library has the highest volume-per-collection ratio on campus and is used by many students. Students and faculty are invested in the outcome of the transfer, and the committee hopes to develop a proposal that will address many of their concerns.
“My hope is that, as a committee, we give the best advice for the sake of the students’ education,” Siry said.
The committee plans to submit their proposal for the collection’s new location by the end of the semester.
“We solicited student input and are trying to think it through as best we can,” Siry added. “Ultimately it’s an administrative decision. Our job is to provide the best-informed, best-reasoned set of options that we can come up with.”
The administration does not currently have any definitive plans for the vacant space in the Art Library building. Multiple departments within the CFA have submitted proposals for potential uses but they have yet to be approved.
“There is one proposal to convert it to a digital arts workshop,” Siry said. “That kind of space is needed somewhere, so I’m virtually certain if the library were to move then there would be a very educational, valuable reuse of that space.”