The movement to save the Art Library and to keep the collection from moving to Olin Library in Summer 2014 has continued to gain momentum on campus. Students have been gathering at the University Organizing Center (UOC) every Tuesday night at 10 p.m. since the plan was announced and have recently drafted a petition protesting the relocation of the Art Library. President Michael Roth said he would like to see the library converted into studio space for art students.
The petition, which was released last week, calls for the Art Library to be kept within the Center for the Arts (CFA) and for students to be included in the decision-making process regarding the relocation of the library. The document was put together by a number of students during a meeting at the UOC.
“We decided to write the petition all together, and it was a really good group of people,” said Sophia Hussain ’13, who worked on the petition. “Some were from the WSA, others were art students, and some people were science majors who just like using the Art Library. It’s less chaotic, it’s almost like a sanctuary to me, and I think to a lot of people. It [can’t be replicated] because of its isolation and its quietness.”
About 150 students have signed the petition to date, representing one of many recent attempts by students to express discontent with the library relocation. Students have organized meetings with faculty, administrators, and alumni and have put up posters and made plans to table in Usdan. Melody Oliphant ’13 has also been involved with creating a resolution to pass in the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA).
“We’re going to present [the resolution] this coming Sunday, and then the WSA will vote on it,” Oliphant said. “I think that the elections for WSA president and vice president have definitely helped to direct attention to the project.”
Roth stressed that the space, which had reached its capacity for art volumes, would still be used by students in the CFA.
“The art library has no room for new books, [but] it’s a beautiful space,” Roth said. “I worked there as a student, and I worked there as an administrator. But I think it could be much more efficiently used by students for art-making.”
Students hope to open conversation with the administration about the decision-making process regarding the library. They plan to contact notable alumni from the Arts departments at Wesleyan to garner support, in addition to getting support from current faculty.
“We’re hoping to have a joint meeting with the faculty who are also concerned about the location of the Art Library,” Hussain said. “We’ve gotten a lot of sympathy from professors who are upset about the administration’s decision.”
They also hope to gain more information from conversations with the administration, including the financial reasons behind the relocation.
“Unless there’s some really compelling financial reason for the move, we don’t want it to happen,” Hussain said. “And if they do go ahead with this decision, we would want to see students and faculty play a bigger role.”
Much of students’ concern stems from the change in location. Students say the CFA provides a cohesive location for the arts community and its facilities—including classes, books, studios, and study spaces.
“The CFA is becoming [disconnected], and the unity of the CFA as a center for the arts is being threatened,” Hussain said. “I wonder how a prospective art student would feel on a tour if they were walking through the CFA and there wasn’t an Art Library there.”
Other concerns about relocating the collection have been raised. The 12 student workers currently working at the Art Library would lose their jobs. Even with the weeding project planned to commence this summer, students worry that there still might not be enough room to expand the art collection in Olin.
“We don’t want [the library] in Olin,” said Art Library worker Becky Schisler ’14. “Even if the books can’t be together, I think most of us agree that it’d be better if most of the collection could be in the CFA.”
While he is still unsure of what type of art studios will be placed in the Davison Art Center (DAC), Roth believes that the move will benefit art students.
“Getting the space in the CFA for art-making seems really important,” Roth said. “That’s a space we could use—it’s right there, it’s accessible to students, and we just want to make sure we’ll use it as well as possible. So we have these proposals from different art-making dimensions of the curriculum, and we’ll try to have maximum use—which I don’t think you really get from the stacks and desks that are in the art library.”
Roth’s plan would provide more art space, but would not allow for an art library within the CFA. The separation of the arts collection is the primary reason for student opposition to Roth’s proposal, but there are some students who are concerned that the additional studio space will not rectify the problems for art history students, or students who use the library as a study space.
“I don’t think that some students should receive a privilege at the detriment to others,” Oliphant said. “There needs to be a sense of equity among the disciplines.”
The DAC is also a historical national landmark, and students want to maintain the integrity of the building. Some students worry that Roth’s plan will not fully address the current structural concerns present within the DAC.
“If the building is in bad shape, and needs to be fixed, making it an art studio space is forestalling costs of renovation for the future,” Hussain said.
Other students worry that converting the Library to studio spaces would counteract the original aims for the space.
“When the Davison family originally purchased the space, they wanted to to use a portion of it to display their print collection, and to facilitate a conversation about art and the meaning of art,” Oliphant said. “While studio space serves tribute to that original purpose, what better way to address and discuss art and art history than having an art library?”
Even though the relocation of the collections to Olin won’t take place until 2014, students hope that a conversation surrounding the issues will occur by the end of the year, and continue into next year.
“We have a lot of momentum right now, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from faculty supporting us,” Hussain said. “I think for the administration to represent the students’ interests, we should continue this dialogue next year no matter what happens or how the conversation goes.”