Letter to the Editor
Issue   |   Wed, 04/02/2014 - 00:13

Sophie Murguia’s article on the Humanities Center slated for Frost Library presents the project mostly from the viewpoint of its supporters. She notes, however, that the need to displace stacks and faculty carrels has aroused faculty concern. Given Bryn Geffert’s optimism that “only one or two percent of the collection” will be removed from the library, and that the library will be able to provide carrels for those faculty members displaced from carrels on Frost’s second level, readers may wonder why faculty members, a large number of them in fact, have objected to placing this Center in Frost Library. Here are two reasons:

1) A large percentage of the space now allocated to open stacks (much more than one or two percent) will be lost to that purpose, simply to provide “talk space,” the kind of thing that could be and is now accommodated in shared space elsewhere.

2) There exists now a waiting list of faculty members who would like to have carrels in Frost but cannot because twelve of the fifty-seven faculty carrels will no longer be available for regular faculty use.

The College’s Humanities Center plan echoes those of librarians all over the country who are embracing monotonous “centers” for which they gut the browsable stacks, ignoring faculty alarm about losing a facility critical to the methods of some disciplines. The irony of the Humanities Center plan is that it is faculty in the traditional humanities disciplines who will suffer most if our stacks lose their integrity, and who would use the carrels that are going to disappear.

At Amherst, our Librarian’s stated concern not to diminish greatly our print collection is heartening. But this fall we received a statement of “Library Collections Management” for the College which articulates this principle:
Any new renovations or additions to Frost — be they for study, teaching technology, collaborative work, research or new programs — will require moving additional print materials to the bunker.

This statement, if it stands, will effectively freeze the number of books in Frost, a library that has not expanded since its opening in 1965 and has been culling books for offsite storage for years.

It is time for this College to stop postponing a long overdue expansion of Frost and for our Librarian to embrace a vision of a library that can serve our disparate needs.

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