Honnold/Mudd Library Struggles to Meet Both Student and Faculty Needs

Honnold/Mudd Library is running out of space, according to Pomona College Vice President Cecilia Conrad.

The library’s capacity issue arose from an inability to properly compromise user space, which students enjoy, and book space, where faculty would like to see their pertinent collections represented.

The Claremont Colleges have the largest print collection of any liberal arts college library in the country. Honnold/Mudd accrues 18,000 to 26,000 new books per year, increasing the size of its collection by two percent annually.

Recently, the library also made some “big changes in the way it thinks of itself” that added to the capacity problem, Conrad said.

A survey held at Pomona found that undergraduates were under-utilizing the library.

In response, the Claremont University Consortium (CUC) began to transform the facility into more of a “learning center” than solely an academic resource. Changes included building a café, expanding group meeting and conversation areas, and possibly extending operating hours. The main entrances to the library were also refurbished.

However, Conrad said these changes lowered the print capacity at Honnold/Mudd.

CUC, which runs all the Claremont Colleges’ shared resources, including the library, health center, and bookstore, was recently given more direct control of the library, which had previously been run independently.

CUC then created a task force to address library issues. Their answer to the capacity issue was to open a facility elsewhere to store 40 percent of the Honnold/Mudd collection that was not regularly used. This, in part, was meant to open up space for user services. The plan was shelved due to the economic downturn.

To make matters worse, the colleges decided to close their science libraries last year, requiring the incorporation of their contents into Honnold/Mudd’s collection.

Last summer, the library administration removed most of the academic journals that already had their content available online, as well as some journals with only partial content online, in order to properly accommodate books from the three science libraries. They alerted deans and faculty of this change through an e-mail that was written in “library speak,” according to Conrad, who said she did not understand the notification until she viewed it in retrospect.

The Advisory Board of Library Planning (ABLP), a 5-C board comprised of faculty, one undergraduate student and one graduate student, was formed with the support of the Intercollegiate Faculty Council and 5-C deans in order to increase faculty involvement in the library’s decisions, since CUC’s task force did not include any faculty members.

“Deans are trying to keep the library academic and keep faculty in the loop,” Conrad said.

The board aimed to monitor the content of the library and ensure that no content would be removed if any faculty found it essential for their subject and purpose. It hoped to set up a process for archival review, giving faculty the opportunity to make an argument for retaining content the library wished to remove. In the short term, this meant bringing back the removed journals for “further review.”

“The removal was done unilaterally by the library,” said Bill Alves, chair of ABLP. “Two thousand, four hundred titles were removed. They were sent to a third-party vendor, and we pleaded them not to sell anything that hadn’t been already.”

Faculty requested the return of 600 titles, 480 of which had not been sold yet. The ABLP is deciding which ones they most want to keep.

The board proposed to house print journals at a newly opened record center at 11th Street and Upland Avenue. However, the overcapacity at Honnold/Mudd still includes the materials from the nine years of growth since the library was at proper capacity.

“Faculty are concerned about wholesale shedding of books and wanted a consistent policy for the ‘de-accessioning’ of books, which libraries need to do all the time,” Alves said. There is a fear that overcrowding would “cause [the Honnold/Mudd administration] to do something a lot more radical.”

An electronic list of candidates for de-accessioning has been compiled, and faculty may review the list from Jan. 1 to Apr. 1 of every year. They can then make proposals for the retention of specific materials, as they could for the aforementioned journals. The electronic list and faculty notifications of print removals are the biggest certain change the ABLP has enacted. Their committee does not have the power to spend money or direct the library to spend money.

“All we can do is bring to their attention the space issue and any others we see,” Alves said. “We want the library to be [the] best possible for education and scholarship.”

However, John McDonald, the Director of Information & Bibliographic Management and Faculty Relations at the library, suggested the library staff may be more qualified than faculty at deciding which books are necessary to retain.

“Librarians have managed the addition and removal of print books in the library for decades, and this type of expertise is exactly what librarians are educated and trained to do on behalf of the entire Claremont Colleges community,” he said.

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