The Economy Takes Away Science Libraries

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A tipster has forwarded us a notice that “as a cost-saving measure,” Columbia will be closing the physics, chemistry, biology, and psychology libraries a full year early. According to Physics Department Chair Andrew Mills, who sent the email, “I have received two conflicting reports of the closing date: July 1, 2009 and July 31, 2009.”

As for course reserves and other in-demand books, Mills wrote, “our [Physics] course reserve materials will be held either in the Engineering library or in the Mathematics library until such time as the Science Library in the new science building opens. Some non-reserve books will be moved to the Mathematics library, others to an off-site repository. If you wish to access a book you will need to go to one of the remaining libraries (e.g. math or engineering) and check it out or request that it be extracted from the off-site storage facility.” Bwog is checking on the new locations for other majors’ reserves.

In related news, there does appear to be progress on the new science building: as seen above, workers have begun adding outer skin to the building. Until it opens, affected majors, bone up on your offsite-ordering skills.

– JCD, photo by JYH

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  1. Alum

    The consolidated science library belongs in Uris, where the business/econ library is now. That library will move to Manhattanville in a few years, and the space it will leave behind is poorly suited to any other use. Its location is central to most of the science departments, and it has enough room to keep journals, etc. out in the open. The library planned for the NW Science Building will be very compact and won't have many hard-copy journals, or much in the way of browsing materials.

    • ALERT

      I believe that may actually happen; when the B-School moves out of Uris, the surrounding schools (both liberal arts based and science based, along with SEAS) are getting cuts of it. Thus, there is a good chance that library space will be kept and used for books; what types of books, we'll find out soon enough

  2. GS/JTS student

    I thought it was only JTS who was dealing massive cuts to its library due to budget shortfalls (the library is only open 4 days/week now). Sad to see Columbia in the same situation, which is even worse in comparison for those in the subject areas where the libraries are being closed...

    • Alum

      CU has planned for years to consolidate its science libraries. That plan has nothing to do with the economic downturn, which came later.

      Most of the materials people used to read in the science libraries are available online now. As a result, relatively few people actually use those libraries. The space is underutilized, and too many librarians are serving too few patrons. Consolidating five libraries into one will allow the university to reduce staff and will free up the space used by the existing libraries for other purposes.

      The only thing that has changed is that the individual libraries will close before the consolidated library is ready. That's a big deal, but not nearly as big as your post suggests.

      • glum

        Don't you have anything better to do then post detailed responses to putatively misinformed comments under the unfailingly irritating title of "alum?" Anyway, I think you are misinformed when you say the move has nothing to do with the economic downtown. The email from the physics dept. chairman indicates otherwise (namely, that budgetary constraints accelerated a move that was originally planned for the following year). In any case, I think you understate the disruption that this move will inevitably cause all of the respective libraries' patrons. It's not any cause for cheer that the university has lost money. Nor is it a cause for celebration that the science libraries, whose utility you also understate in my opinion, had to bear the brunt of the consequent budgetary cuts.

        • Alum

          I said that the consolidation wasn't in response to the downturn, and I stand by that. That decision was made as part of the design process for the new science building, and that process was completed while the economy was still going strong. It has not been changed significantly since then. It could not have been a response to events which had yet to occur.

          I agree that the decision to shut down the individual libraries now rather than a year from now is a response to the downturn. My prior post said as much. I don't know why you think we disagree about this.

          My assessment of how the individual science libraries are used comes from speaking with engineering and science faculty who have been around for many years and who have observed trends which you probably have not. They tell me there are far fewer patrons now than before, and that the reasons I gave in my post are the ones Columbia gave them for the decision to consolidate the subject libraries. This is what motivated the decision to put a single, smaller library in the new science building. If I'm misinformed, then so are the professors I've spoken to.

          And I certainly have not said that any of these is cause for cheer or celebration. I would rather see the subject libraries remain open, or at least see them consolidated into a much larger space like the one in Uris. My post was about the decisions CU has actually made, not the ones I wish it had made.

  3. well

    there goes my work-study job...

  4. Sad sad.

    Dang, I love the physics library. It's such a nice place to study.

  5. '08 Grad

    This post makes me nostalgic for the time I was in the psychology library and a giant chunk of the roof came crashing down the floor.


  6. I am  

    saddened by this. I loved the chem library. No one ever knew it was there, it was fantastic (but slightly overheated)!

  7. columbia has no money

    tons of layoffs too.

  8. sdksk

    Too bad---the physics library was a great place to study.

    It's understandable that the consolidation of the libraries is happening as it was pretty evident the library had less and less visitors (just like I observed with the Chemistry library) but it isn't true that most of the materials in the physics library are now online. While most the journals are obviously archived and some of the more popular texts (and references like the CRC handbook and others) are probably online there are a ton of specialized books in the physics library which are invaluable to those doing research. Though I guess the benefit is that now one will be able to access them and books from other disciplines in the same library.

  9. alum

    I studied in all four of those libraries during my time at Columbia. Quiet, neat places to study. It will be good to have a unified library in the new building though.

  10. ...  

    sounds like a smart move to me. it's only in the short term, i'm sure they'll keep the reasonably circulating texts on campus and those they move will be only a day or two away.

    i'd much rather see something like this than something like cuts in financial aid or new faculty packages.

    and seriously, there are a hell of a lot worse positions to be in other than "we're closing a bunch of small undertrafficked libraries for a year before we consolidate them all into a brand new massive awesome interdisciplinary science library in a brand new building."

  11. cc '08 wmst major

    I'll miss those libraries, all four were great alternatives to Butler during my time there. But it makes sense to merge them. Farewell to you four study havens, you will be missed ;-(

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