I was recently reminded about something I have been meaning to post. I heard from a source at the Residential College at the beginning of the month that there was some discussion at a meeting about closing the only two remaining Residence Hall Libraries: the Bursley Library, and the East Quad’s Benzinger Library. As a quick refresher, you might remember I wrote about this in July, after being contacted by a friend and former residence hall librarian who had discovered she had been abruptly fired because the administration was switching to another “service model.” Sometimes I wonder where such corporate lingo comes from when it is used by administrators: they are running a public educational institution, not maximizing profits for their stock holders!
My friend in the RC was particularly concerned about the potential closing of the Benzinger Library because fulfils a unique role in East Quad. It not only serves like the old Residence Hall Libraries and offers books, CD’s, magazines, and movies that residents can check out, but it also serves as a resource for the Residential College: RC professors put court materials on reserve there, and the library has hosted a variety of artistic and educational events in the past. If it is closed outright, all of these functions would be eradicated, and if it is “transformed” into another “service model,” as far as I can tell it would not have material to check out, and perhaps only function as a study lounge.
The closing of the Bursley Library would also be troubling because of that residence hall’s distance from the Media Union – the small library provides a convenient space for students to study, meet, or relax, without forcing them to hike down the hill on a suburban campus designed for the convenience of cars, not pedestrians. When I lived in Bursley in 2000-2001 I found the library a nice, very quiet space to study for exams, especially since many of the hall lounges had been closed, or are used by groups as meeting spaces.
University administrators must not forget in their drive to streamline their operation that destroying small things like hall lounges and residence hall libraries do impact the quality of life of students, making their lives a little less pleasant. While sacrificing all for efficiency may make sense in the business world, the University has in several recent cuts (Such as the Woodshop, (read the Daily article) shown little sensitivity to student’s desires and needs, and made changes whose costs I believe outweigh any small budget gains.
To further cast a shadow over the University’s motives, last year the Residence Hall Head Librarians voted to join GEO, arguing that they were paid less than other graduate student employees for the 30 hours per week they worked in addition to being full time students. They even went so far as to scheduling a strike last spring during the negotiation process. Firing them all was certainly an efficient way to end the negotiation, but more reminiscent a stridently anti-union corporation and not the University of Michigan, who recently formed a committee to formulate an ethics policy to apply in their purchasing contracts, part of which requires contractors respect worker’s rights to organize!
> See Daily: “Res Hall libraries end loans of movies, CDs, magazines”
> Daily, March 2003: “Librarians halt picket to further negotiations”
> Daily, Dec. 2002: “Head Librarians join GEO to raise bargaining power”