In the middle of general budget constraints and a long search for a director, the Honnold/Mudd Library of the Claremont Colleges is rapidly removing books from its shelves to make space for new items.
“We are currently faced with a situation of ‘no growth’ for collections because of the lack of space,” said Scripps College Music Professor YouYoung Kang. “In order to acquire new materials, we must discard older books.”
Kang is a member of the Advisory Board of Library Planning (ABLP), a committee comprised of one faculty member from each of the 7Cs, three librarians and a student representative. The group participates in library planning and makes recommendations to the library administration based on student and faculty input.
“Libraries routinely cull their collections, but the rate of culling required for ‘no growth’ is quite drastic,” Kang said. “This type of emergency culling should not be taking place at the Claremont Colleges.”
Bill Alves, a music professor at Harvey Mudd College and ABLP member, said that there are four major types of books that can qualify for “deaccession.” Books that have not been checked out or taken off the shelf in the last 15 years, duplicates that are not in high use, superseded editions and books on obsolete topics may be removed. Once a list of candidates for deaccession is compiled, faculty members across the 7Cs are invited to veto works off the list.
In the last academic year, 32,000 books were identified as possible candidates, and 11,000 were ultimately removed from the collection. Removed books are donated to secondhand sellers such as BetterWorldBooks, which donates proceeds to pro-literacy charities.
Alves said that the major deaccessioning is a result of the scarcity of available space, a problem that has only been exacerbated after the closing of several smaller libraries, including the Seeley G. Mudd Library at Pomona College, the Sprague Library at Harvey Mudd and the Denison Library at Scripps.
“One of the things that was most controversial was that the presidents made the decision to close satellite libraries very precipitously,” Alves said. “It happened all at once, the closing of the Seeley and Sprague libraries. The problem was they didn’t have any place to put those books. Since the closure of the satellite libraries, Honnold/Mudd has been bursting at the seams to hold all the books. We have no space to put new books unless we get rid of old ones.”
Gale Burrow, Assistant Director for Educational Services at Honnold/Mudd, said that deaccessioning is a routine process that all libraries must go through.
“All libraries deaccession books for a variety of reasons,” Burrow said. “For example, newer editions are published and added to the collection, information in older publications becomes out-of-date or is proved incorrect or curricular needs change over time. And space for new books often means older, less used volumes must be removed—sometimes to a storage facility, such as the one the Claremont Colleges library has established a couple of miles away in Upland. Even without the recent budget problems, Honnold/Mudd Library could not house the approximately 10,000-15,000 new volumes we add to the collection each year without removing some.”
Burrow said she does not believe that the limited budget has affected long-term goals for the library, but it has delayed plans for improvement.
“Budget problems have meant we could not accomplish our goals as quickly as we might have otherwise,” Burrow said. “Big-budget items like renovating Honnold/Mudd Library or building a state-of-the-art storage facility to house and preserve older, less used books are those that get most delayed. Other needs include improving facilities in the short and long term, including computer equipment and wireless access, additional space for collections and for student usage and managing the ever-escalating prices for materials in an era of dramatic change in the information environment.”
The library’s budget, which is determined annually by the Council of Presidents, is lower than the budgets of libraries at comparable institutions, Alves said. The percent share that each of the 7Cs must contribute to the overall budget is determined by a formula that takes into account the size of the student and faculty populations at the respective colleges.
This academic year, Pomona College contributed 28.5 percent; Claremont McKenna College (CMC), 16 percent; Claremont Graduate University, 15 percent; Pitzer, 12.4 percent; Scripps, 11.9 percent; Harvey Mudd, 10.4 percent; Claremont University Consortium, four percent; and Keck Graduate Institute, 1.5 percent, Pomona Dean of Faculty Cecilia Conrad said.
The aggregate budget was about 11 million dollars, which works out to a spending average of about $1,300 per student. According to Alves, in a study comparing the libraries of 80 liberal arts colleges conducted by the Oberlin Group in 2010, the median spending per student was about $2,000, with Amherst leading at $3,600.
Conrad said that since Honnold/Mudd Library is a shared resource that serves a much larger community than the libraries of other small liberal arts institutions, the lower spending may be attributed to economies of scale.
“Part of the question that we are exploring is what is the right relationship that we should have,” she said. “We don’t have a ready answer for that. We are in the process of working with library staff, the president and outside consultants.”
“One of the biggest challenges is that of developing a strategic vision for the library that’s shared by all the Claremont Colleges,” Burrow said. “Such a shared vision would encourage strong partnerships between the library and the colleges, both in the academic endeavors of students and faculty and in the planning and budgeting processes at the colleges.”
While the library currently lacks a director, a search committee, chaired by CMC Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Gregory Hess, is being assembled to bring potential candidates to campus in the fall.
Kang said a director could facilitate plans for expansion.
“It is imperative that the leader…advocates actively for resources for the library with the various presidents of the colleges and campaigns for additional collection space,” Kang said.
An unsuccessful search for a director was conducted in 2009-2010, Alves said.