Survey results will help predict future of campus libraries

Gracie Malley/Senior Staff
Left: Optometry Library, Right: Public Health Library, both of which need to change according to results from a recent survey.

Related Posts

Results released in July from a campus-wide online survey conducted in May will guide library administration in creating a new library service model in light of budget cuts and a growing reliance on digital information access.

The survey — which was sent to students, faculty and library staff — was intended to measure the campus community’s current reliance on library services and its attitude toward two proposed service models designed to address a staffing shortfall and lowered budget.

Of the roughly 4,000 people who took the survey, nearly 70 percent said they rely heavily on the libraries, according to University Librarian Thomas Leonard.

“We were taken (aback) by the love of libraries, and how much people seem to connect to them,” Leonard said. “People agreed they were really important for their sense of community.”

Leonard said the results also showed undergraduate students are very concerned about library hours and having a place to study, and that faculty are largely concerned about the quality of the collections.

Respondents also opposed spending less money on collections, but accepted that in the long run, a new library service model was necessary due to lowered budget and staff reductions.

After discussion with both the Library Committee of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate and campus library staff, the survey sought input on two proposed models, a “Full Service Libraries” model and a “Hub and Cluster” plan, both of which would reduce the current number of library branches and available research consultation locations.

The “Full Service Libraries” model would rely on full service libraries that would offer long hours, large collections and a full range of librarian services and study spaces, cutting 16 branches. The “Hub and Cluster” model would rely on clustering a couple of libraries similar in discipline to be “circulation-only” and one library serving as a hub offering long hours, large collections and a full range of librarian services and study spaces, cutting ten branches.

Undergraduate and graduate student respondents selected the “Hub and Cluster” as their preferred service model, but faculty members were divided half and half between the “Hub and Cluster” and “Full-Service Libraries” model. Library staff preferred the “Full-Service Libraries” model.

“The library has taken a lead in doing something some other campus units have done to get ahead of the challenge of some of the lowered budgets,” Leonard said. “What the library is doing is trying to get on the same page … get more values from our people and a more efficient way to divide library services.”

A decrease in public funding over the past four years has already caused the library to lose over 70 budgeted staff and will require the loss of approximately 20 additional full-time employees over the next three years to meet stable budget goals in the future, Leonard said in a letter dated April 16.

Bruce Williams, a reference services coordinator at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, also emphasized that employee responsibilities have been changing due to a loss of staff members who have retired and whose positions have not been refilled.

“The whole motivation behind this is simply that people have been retiring, and it has been happening in a haphazard way,” Williams said. “In Doe and Moffit, they have been re-adjusting by breaking up assignments and giving them to other people.”

Leonard said that in the next two weeks UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will announce a Faculty Blue Ribbon Committee that will inform the next steps of the library re-envisioning process and help plan the new service model which is scheduled to be announced in the spring.