September 2002 Council on the Libraries minute

Council on Libraries
September 26, 2002
Treasure Room, 12:15-1:45 pm

Council on Libraries: Special Meeting
Present: Jeremy Rutter (JR) (Chair), Havah Armstrong-Walther (HAW), David Becker (DB), Malcolm Brown (MB), Kathryn Cottingham (KC), Richard Cunningham (RC), Robert Ditchfield (RD), Douglas Irwin (DI), Joy Kenseth (JK), Richard Lucier (RL), Mary Munter (MM), Cyndy Pawlek (CP), Jane Quigley (JQ) (staff), Barry Scherr (BS)

The meeting was convened at 12:15 PM.

Jerry Rutter welcomed members of the Council on Libraries (CoL) and brief introductions were made. As a reminder, regular CoL meetings will be held monthly, with the next one scheduled for October 15, 12:00-1:30. JR turned the meeting over to Librarian of the College Richard Lucier for a review of the Library's current budget situation.

RL gave an overview of the budget crisis facing the Library since President James Wright's letter was first communicated to the campus community in August. The amount needing to be cut from the Library's budget over FY2003 and FY2004 was set at $920,000; in addition, cuts in the Library's budget streams from Tuck and Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) bring the total cuts to $1,062,000, which represents between 6.25-6.5% of the Library's overall budget. He stressed that this will be a time of difficult decisions; that these cuts must be considered permanent, according to the Provost, and that they will necessitate significant restructuring of the Library.

RL observed that past experience has proven that it is important to have a set of guiding principles to follow, as outlined in the document distributed before the meeting, "The Challenges of Current Fiscal Realities." These principles have been shared at a number of levels and have been through several rounds of discussion and feedback.

RL noted that the timeline for responding to Provost Scherr's office with specific budget plans is October 2 for the FY03 budget, and October 15 for the FY04 budget.

JR reviewed the charge of the Council on Libraries, reading these functions aloud; he reminded members that it is their role to serve as a conduit for information to the faculty as well as to be an advisory body to the Librarian of the College.

Provost Scherr noted that the October 15 date is the date when his office will have gathered information from various areas, from the deans and department heads, regarding their specific areas. By mid-November, then, a broader statement will be ready to be issued to the campus community about where Dartmouth stands with regard to the budget. He further noted that the Library has the largest budget under the Provost's area. The budget cut that was made in late winter/early spring was initially thought to be sufficient. By June 2002, however, it was clear that the performance of the stock market would necessitate another round of budget adjustments. Provost Scherr pointed out that current budget projections are based on July 1st figures, and may not mark the end of the downturn.

RL expressed his concern for the Library's staff of 150-175 people and for staff morale. He recounted some of his past experiences with drastic budget cuts of 25% in the University of California system, and in earlier years at Johns Hopkins, and the different approaches and tools that were employed to meet these cuts. Tools included early retirement incentives; flexible work arrangements; and fund reserves. He emphasized that how the Library meets the budget challenge now will determine whether or not it emerges as a stronger institution in years ahead.

Joy Kenseth asked for clarification of one of the draft guiding principles, calling for a balance between the distributed and centralized library collections and services. RL explained that that point addresses the balance between the branches of the Library system and Baker-Berry; how and whether distributed (branch) services and collections should be supported. There is an opportunity to leverage the recent renovation and expansion of Baker-Berry Library in such a way as to provide, in many instances, the highest quality of service to the maximum number of people from this central point.

Jerry Rutter noted that Council members should comment from their individual perspectives and as representatives of their departments as to the impact of these cuts on their constituencies.

Robert Ditchfield asked for more clarification about what a "balance" might mean specifically. He and Kathy Cottingham emphasized that research in the sciences depends on collections and services that can support their specific needs. KC added that Baker-Berry poses particular challenges for people in the sciences in terms of navigation and services like reserves.

RL noted that the balance will depend on the specific needs of the discipline; that opportunities to integrate are probably greater for branches in the humanities than in the sciences. Some of these moves towards integration were already underway before the present budget situation, for example the move towards greater centralization of ILL services and the implementation of Borrow Direct.

Havah Armstrong-Walther asked for clarification about the issue of space. RL noted that at present there were no plans to eliminate Library space; the 1902 Room and the Novack café are both examples of the provision of study spaces that meet different needs. However, there are possibilities to consolidate some collections and services; Sanborn House with its duplicate copies is a possible example. Feldberg Library is another example of library space that will be changing to meet the changing demands of its communities.

In response to a question from Joy Kenseth, Provost Scherr noted that the cuts in the budget are permanent, as increases have been permanent in the past. They mark a new starting point. Looking back at the early 1990s, a similar economic downturn resulted in cuts to the budgets but by the late 1990s, budgets had come back strongly. However we should not expect that specific things will be restored exactly as they were; he agreed with RL that this is a time for reassessing priorities and restructuring the Library.

Richard Lucier added that he expects this turn in the budget cycle to last up to 5-8 years before we are back to the current point.

David Becker concurred with the Provost's remarks, noting that this is a time to take advantage of the opportunity to make changes, restructure, improve efficiency of operations and services. We should not be afraid of change. RL noted that the challenge lies in making the right decisions and not simply responding to the loudest voice in the room. Instead we must work to preserve what is essential for each department or discipline.

Kathy Cottingham raised the question of assigning priorities among the guiding principles listed in the draft document. Havah Armstrong-Walther and Richard Cunningham commended RL for his concern for staff welfare and morale. As to priorities, RL emphasized the importance of guideline #9, active engagement with Dartmouth's capital campaign. He noted that the administration has not wavered in its support for the Library's place in the capital campaign.

A discussion arose as to the best means for RL to get this message out to faculty and students-a two-part message about the nature and extent of the budget challenge, and the idea that a productive solution depends on working together. RC offered to bring the issue up at a student assembly. Several people supported the idea of town hall-type faculty meetings at a divisional level where RL could address faculty members' concerns and answer questions. CoL members would join RL at these meetings in their divisions. It was resolved that JR would undertake to set up these divisional meetings.

RL asked if the CoL would endorse, in general, the list of guiding principles as outlined in the document. It was noted that the principles were not specific and that questions remained about how they would be applied; RL said that reaching decisions about the implementation of budget cuts was an iterative process and some flexibility was necessary. A voice vote showed all in favor of a general endorsement of the guiding principles.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:45 PM.