GSPIA/Economics library to close next summer

By Gwenn Barney

The GSPIA/Economics library will close permanently over the summer, amid a surge in the use of… The GSPIA/Economics library will close permanently over the summer, amid a surge in the use of digital resources.

“More and more material is online,” Rush Miller, director of the University Library Systems, said. “Libraries have seen dramatic changes.”

Miller said the decision to close the library was a combination of the need to free up space in Posvar Hall and reduce cost, but didn’t say how much money the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs would save or how Posvar would utilize the extra space.

This library closing is part of a trend at the University dating back five years, during which time the chemistry, physics and mathematics libraries, as well as the Darlington Collection, all experienced some form of consolidation or closure, Miller said.

Administration considered closing GSPIA’s library in the past, but couldn’t find room in Hillman for GSPIA’s books at those times, he said. The University Library System has since shipped some books to storage, allowing GSPIA to take the vacancy.

Miller worked closely with David DeJong, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management, when he deliberated over whether or not to close the library. Administrators from the School of Arts & Sciences and GSPIA departments were also consulted.

The GSPIA/Economics library has seen a significant drop in both library visitation and books checked out in recent years, according to Miller.

He said that the library loaned around 5,000 books last school year compared to approximately 14,000 volumes in 2002. Foot traffic also declined. Detection devices at the library’s entrance monitored about 35,000 people entering and leaving in 2006. That number whittled down to about 20,000 last year.

Administrators were also concerned that reference transactions, the number of times students meet with librarians, dropped by half in recent years. Miller said that GSPIA’s librarians and their salaries would be better utilized in other sectors of the University Library System.

GSPIA Student Cabinet member Jonathan Livingston believes these numbers don’t accurately represent the value of the library to students. He said the GSPIA library is far quieter than Hillman Library — the GSPIA collection’s future residence. Livingston also worried about the sort of effect the library’s closing could have on GSPIA’s reputation.

“The top 15 — top 20 — programs in the country have their own libraries,” he said. GSPIA is currently ranked 27th in the country for public affairs by the latest report from U.S. News & World Report.

GSPIA also ranked 16th in the top U.S. master’s programs for international relations for 2009, according to the magazine Foreign Policy.

Livingston’s fellow cabinet member, Marie DeAeth, created a petition requesting that administrators allow GSPIA students to offer input on how the library space, once cleared, will be used.

“We weren’t consulted at all, and we are the stakeholders,” she said.

DeAeth’s petition currently has about 150 signatures.

“We know that this library is going to close, but we’d like to be in some dialogue,” she said. “We’d like to reserve some of that space for a quiet study space.”

Livingston said he heard some preliminary plans for the space include expanding a GSPIA classroom and the school’s related Center of Excellence. He believes that while expansions to GSPIA are positive, they don’t make up for the loss of easy access to resources and quiet study space.

DeJong said GSPIA’s books and resources will still be available through the Hillman Library. DeJong was unable to comment on future uses for the library space or why the University needed the space, but said that finding quiet study space elsewhere for students is something administration is working on as the closure process moves forward.

“We always want to be sure we are making the most efficient use of space possible.”