Letter to the Editor

Outside review confirms SU libraries are underfunded, out of date

In October 2012, an external review committee evaluated the Syracuse University Library system. Review committee members included four directors of academic research libraries and a leader in academic technologies and research.

The completed report contains 47 recommendations that touch on nearly every aspect of the library’s programs and support. The recommenders congratulated the library for its new South Campus Library Facility, SUrface and grants for the nationally recognized Belfer Audio Archive. However, they called on the university’s upper administration to prioritize improvement in two areas:

1) The collections budget:

The report recommends that the chancellor, provost and other senior administrators “determine a planned and stepped strategy to correct the baseline collection budget deficiency”. The reviewers encountered many at SU who “express considerable concern over the ability of the collections to support the academic and research enterprises of the university. They also are very concerned about the university administration’s perceived failure to comprehend and address the deficiencies.” The baseline budget must be improved, and taking from the current collections’ budget to support general operation’s costs “must cease.” The SU administration must seriously address the inadequacies of the collections budget and reverse long-term underfunding.

2) The physical facilities:

The reviewers noted that while Bird Library is the main library on campus, it does not meet the needs of the campus community, lacking many capabilities standard for modern libraries. “It is an unattractive structure … the building does not receive adequate services from maintenance crews … wired network services are inadequate to meet user needs and there is a paucity of electrical outlets.” Carnegie represents missed opportunities, an under-utilization of space, “a disjointed building and renovation plan.”

Only leadership from top university administrators, in collaboration with faculty, staff and students, will right the long neglect of the Syracuse University Library. According to this team of national leaders:  “Syracuse library will not be an effective organization … unless [the neglect is] addressed. This will require a revitalized collaboration and consultation among the library, the faculty and the senior administration.” As a community we should be extremely concerned. It is unacceptable to maintain the status quo when we consider the library’s dire conditions.

We strongly urge the administration to follow a key recommendation of the review: take seriously the SU Library as an integral part of the academic enterprise at the university, crucial to student success and faculty productivity.

Sincerely,

Members, Syracuse University Senate Library Committee

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