4.0624 Columbia University School of Library Service (2/214)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 23 Oct 90 23:02:26 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0624. Tuesday, 23 Oct 1990.

(1) Date: 18 Oct 90 21:44:00 EST (87 lines)
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

(2) Date: 19 Oct 90 13:31:00 EST (127 lines)
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 18 Oct 90 21:44:00 EST
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

I think the following message from Terry Balanger of the Columbia
University School of Library Service might be of some interest to
humanists in general and graduates of Columbia in particular.
James W. Halporn, Classics, Indiana University.
--------------- Original Message -----------------

Date Thu, 18 Oct 90 17:09:00 CDT
Comments Originally-From: "Terry Belanger: phone 212/854-4734"
Subject SLS

This was posted on exlibris.
>The documents I have been putting into Exlibris are public documents; I
>would be grateful for their widespread dissemination.

There is (in my opinion) no hope whatsoever that Columbia will reverse
its decision about the closing of its School of Library Service. The
University's priorities are being redirected toward its undergraduate
college, and toward the learned professions [this would appear to
comprise law, medicine, and business]--toward the production, simply
put, of graduates who will then or eventually be in a position to make
substantial contributions, as alums, to the University's coffers.
Professionals in fields like librarianship are not notoriously generous
toward their professional alma maters; and though this sad fact is also
true of recipients of the PhD degree in graduate schools of arts and
sciences, the prestige thought to accrue to universities possessing
distinguished PhD programs helps to offset the financial drain.

Back to Columbia again, consider the process by which the
School was eliminated. In June 1989 the committee planning for the
renovation of Butler Library is quiet advised that they have the entire
space of the building at their disposal, including the 15,000 square
feet presently occupied by SLS (SLS is not informed of this). In
November, University Provost Jonathan Cole establishes a committee to
review the School, out of season and against University tradition. The
review committee is chaired by Dean of the Graduate School Roger
Bagnall, an unsuccessful candidate a few years before for the position
of Dean of SLS, and whose wife is currently a student in the School.
There are no peers [ie library school faculty], internal or external,
on the review committee.

When the review committee makes its report in late January, the
Provost suppresses it (against the advice of the review committee
itself), refusing to allow even the tenured faculty of SLS to see it
(the Dean of the School, after protesting, is allowed to see a copy but
only if he keeps its contents a secret). The Education Committee of the
University Senate asks to see a copy of the report repeatedly, and is
also refused (this Committee has statutory oversight on the educational
standards and policies of the University).

The Provost issues his report on SLS in the third week in
April, on the Monday of the week in which the University Senate has its
last meeting of the year on the Friday. The Education Committee of the
Senate (which has received *its* copies of the Provost's Report two
days early, on the Friday before the Monday) works quickly and sends a
resolution strongly in support of the School to the Senate floor for
the Friday meeting. The Executive Committee of the Senate (on which the
President of the University, Michael Sovern, sits), which controls the
agenda of senate meetings, brings in a substitute resolution of its
own, the clear intent of which is to weaken the resolution of the
Education Committee.

The Senate unanimously passes a resolution cobbled together
from both resolutions now on the floor, the effect of which is strongly
in favor of the School.

The date is Friday, April 20th. Six weeks later, the Trustees
of the University vote to close the School. The six-week period is
later described by Columbia administrators as a thorough and open
review of the School.

So: we're off.
As for myself, I'm embarrassed to be working for these people.

Terry Belanger
Associate Professor
School of Library Service
Columbia University

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------145---
Date: 19 Oct 90 13:31:00 EST
From: "HALPORN,JAMES,CLAS" <halpornj@ucs.indiana.edu>

Here is a second message on the problems at the Columbia University
School of Library Service. Again I think it will be of interest to
fellow humanists as well as graduates of Columbia.

--------------- Original Message -----------------------------------

Date Fri, 19 Oct 90 08:44:00 CDT
Comments Originally-From: "Terry Belanger: phone 212/854-4734"
Subject Closing of SLS

More on developments at Columbia. This was posted on Exlibris awhile back.
-- Emily
>The documents I have been putting into Exlibris are public documents; I
>would be grateful for their widespread dissemination.

The Representative Committee of Librarians at Columbia University
released the following statement last week on the closing of the
Columbia University School of Library Service. It is the first such
statement to emerge from the Columbia University Libraries on the
subject, and you will judge for yourself its motivation and potential

Most of the librarians I know at Columbia are looking to leave; the
CULs are not a happy place to work, these days.

Terry Belanger
Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Library Service

12 October 1990
To Jonathan Cole, Provost

We acknowledge the necessity to make hard decisions regarding academic
programs in a time of heightened scrutiny of Columbia's resources. The
termination of the School of Library Service is one such hard
decision. As the Representative Committee of Librarians, a group
elected to communicate the views of the professional staff to the
University Librarian and the Library Senators, we regret this
decision. We fault the apparent rationale for it and the apparently
hasty manner in which it was done.

The Report of the Provost on the School of Library Service at
Columbia (hereafter the Cole Report) characterizes our profession as
having two broad limitations: a lack of a research agenda, and a lack
of a base of professional knowledge (p. 34). Our education and
experience indicate otherwise. We are concerned that the decision to
close the School was made by a Columbia administration not fully
informed as to the profession's value and its essential role in the
academic enterprise of a major university.

The achievements of the School were discussed in the Report of the
Review Committee for the School of Library Service (the Bagnall
Report). We are concerned that the evidence marshalled in the report
was not sufficiently weighed during the decision-making process.
Likewise, we are concerned that the almost-unanimous vote of the
University Senate recognizing the academic standing of the School and
affirming its successful performance of an important educational
function in the University was also not sufficiently considered.

The subsequent decision to close SLS places us, the professional
library staff in particular, in a cruel bind. The Cole Report clearly
states that a ``relocation of SLS, and its related costs, are the
result of the Butler library renovation''. (p. 7) No one knows better
than we how desperately the libraries need more and better space. But,
clearly, the need for space and the value of SLS are two separate

The School of Library Service's world-renowned library has given us
a vitally important route, not only to keep apprised in the literature
of our profession, but also to support our own research, thereby
enabling us to make contributions to the field. We know that we are
envied by many of our colleagues at other prestigious universities for
that resources.

We are concerned about the effects of the closing of the School on
our constituents. Many of them have continued their professional
education while working at Columbia. Indeed, for many, the opportunity
to do so has been an attraction for working here. Loss of this
opportunity will have a detrimental impact on our ability to retain
staff, as well as on future recruitment. The students of the Library
School have been a valuable source of knowledgeable and highly
motivated support staff and student employees in one of the most
competitive environments in this country. Losing the School will
aggravate the continual challenge of finding good staff to maintain
the high level of service required by the University community.

To enable the professional Library staff to meet the challenges
brought on by the closing of the School of Library Service, we
recommend the following:

1. A dialogue be initiated on our profession and its role at Columbia
University. The Representative Committee of Librarians sponsors four
staff meetings with guest speakers during the academic year. We would
like to invite you to discuss your report on SLS and to elaborate on
your perception of the field, perhaps at one of our Spring meetings.

2. It is becoming clear that the nation's library community perceives
that Columbia's libraries are suffering a reduction in their overall
stature in association with the closing of the library school. At the
very least, such an attitude could seriously hamper library, as well
as academic recruitment and retention. We recommend that evidence of
such perceptions be identified and addressed as soon as possible.

3. Many of us are concerned about the future of the SLS Library
collection. We recommend that representatives from the Libraries'
staff have input into the process of deciding its disposition through
an appointment to any committee deciding its fate.

4. For those of us relying on the School for continuing education, we
recommend that the University fund continuing education and provide
professional leave for the library staff to attend other library

5. We recommend that increased resources for support staff recruitment
for the libraries be implemented over the next two years to partially
offset the loss of the SLS student pool.