*"Tale As Old As Time" from Beauty and the Beast starts playing*

“If you like it so much, it’s yours” – the Beast from Beauty and the Beast

Maud Rozee and Eric Cohn took a look into some book news.

For those of you living under a rock who haven’t heard: Barnard will soon be replacing its library with a new Teaching and Learning Center (TLC). Lehman Hall is scheduled for demolition in December 2015, and construction is predicted to take about three years. When it is finished, the new TLC will have less square footage dedicated to books than Lehman Hall had, a fact which has raised concerns among faculty members about the decision-making process and priorities of the new building’s planners.

At their most recent meeting, faculty were told the details of the plan for the approximately 198,000 books in Barnard’s collection during and after construction of the TLC. Barnard’s librarians are currently selecting around 12,000 outdated, unused, or duplicated books to donate to charity, as part of a routine cull. During construction, 20,000 unique titles from Barnard’s library will be housed at Columbia, similarly to how the Milstein Library is housed in Butler. The remaining approximately 166,000 books will be sent to “dark storage,” where they will be inaccessible during construction.

After construction is completed on the new TLC, Barnard library’s onsite collection will be made up of the unique titles which were housed at Columbia and only 75% of the books in dark storage. What access will be provided to the remaining 25% (approximately 41,500 books) left in dark storage has not yet been determined by administrators. Faculty were also told that there will be no room for growth of the library’s physical book collection.

Administrators have planned other uses for the rest of the TLC’s space. A message from Provost Bell assured that “there are no plans to replace books with digital content” and that “the library will be modern and house student study spaces and labs that permit digital content to be readily accessed.”

Religion Department Professor Elizabeth Castelli says that faculty members are concerned about how priorities for the use of space in the TLC are being set. Many feel that shrinking the library’s physical holdings is opposed to the mission of a college, and the centrality of a library to that mission. They are also unsure of who exactly is making the decisions, and feel that Barnard’s librarians should be partners in the planning process, which purportedly has not been the case so far.

The involvement of librarians in the planning process is hindered by the recent resignation of Dean of the Barnard Library and Academic Information Services Lisa Norberg. The official statement at the last SGA meeting was that she stepped down to form a 501c. Castelli pointed out that when Lisa Norberg leaves, there will be nobody with her expertise and qualifications as a librarian to help plan for the library’s future.

“For Barnard to continue to be a first-rate college, it needs a robust library for teaching and research. We’re at a point where that can mean different things [in terms of ways to access library materials],” Castelli said. Faculty members know that changes to Barnard’s library are unavoidable, but the opacity about how decisions are being made, with what expertise, and by whom have given them cause for concern.

Editor’s Note, December 9, 5:25 pm: Our post previously stated that the TLC will have less square footage for the library than Lehman had.  It was brought to our attention that this statement requires some clarification.  The TLC will have less square footage dedicated as space for books than Lehman, although in terms of total square footage the TLC will be slightly larger than Lehman.  We apologize for the confusion, and the post has been updated for clarity.

The British Museum’s Reading Room via Wikimedia