Chancellor's Fact Sheet Closing Branch Libraries for Chemistry, Biology, and Physics - FY 2002 & 2003 Budget Reduction Process

SEPTEMBER 10, 2002

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Love Library currently maintains five, disciplinary-based science branch libraries and the staff to support them. These include libraries for Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geosciences, and Mathematics. Love Library does not have sufficient space to shelve the books from these libraries in Love Library itself. Indeed, the Library system has requested state funds to build a library storage facility to solve the overcrowding of Love Library, which is near or over capacity. The campus master plan contemplates construction on East Campus. This request, while once high on the capital queue for the NU system, was replaced in favor of the emergency needs of the Sheldon Memorial Gallery. Currently, commercial storage space is leased for the storage of this overflow and such storage costs will continue to increase.

  The annual costs associated with the current arrangement are as follows:

Cost of maintaining chemistry, biology, and physics branch libraries: $250,000
Cost of commercial storage leases $122,355
Total $372,355

The proposal is to close the Chemistry, Biology, and Physics branch libraries and to use the funds currently allocated for these branches as well as the funds used to purchase commercial storage space for the lease/purchase of a library storage facility. The Math and Geosciences Libraries would remain unaffected. The branches would close once the library storage facility is completed. The Math Library appears to be more central to the discipline and, unlike the sciences, serves as its laboratory. The Geoscience Library contains mostly maps which are difficult to shelve within a general library and which lack the cataloging system necessary to facilitate user access without direct contact with the materials.

Once the library storage facility is constructed, current materials in Chemistry, Biology, and Physics will be housed in Love Library in space made available by removal of older materials from across the Library’s collections to the new storage facility. Material in storage, on whatever topic, will be accessible to the University community through library personnel.

Estimates for construction costs for an 800,000 volume, modern library storage facility total $3 million, which, under current conditions, would provide the library with 10 years of expansion potential. Because of favorable interest rates it is possible to enter a 20-year lease/purchase arrangement to construct the facility. The funds currently utilized to maintain the branch libraries and lease commercial storage space are sufficient to make the lease payments. By projecting unavoidable increases in these costs over the 20-year term of the lease, the University is expected to save almost $9 million. Although this proposal will not achieve any immediate budget reductions, it is hoped that future budget stability will allow us to reinvest these savings back into the library’s collection.

The primary negative impact of this proposal will be the inconvenience to faculty and students in the affected disciplines. Undeniably, having a library within the same building as faculty offices makes it more convenient to access the collection on an as needed basis. However, this inconvenience is modified by the following observations:
  1. Both Physics and Chemistry are located within close proximity to Love Library.

  2. Life science faculty located in Manter are within close proximity to Love Library. Other life science faculty are housed in more remote locations such as Beadle and on East Campus. These faculty have as easy access to Love Library as to the branch library in Manter.

  3. Increasingly, periodical literature and other materials in the sciences are available on-line either in full-text or in abstract form.
  4. Love Library has a delivery service that can provide one-day service delivery to any of the science buildings.

  5. Other disciplines across the University have found the absence of a disciplinary library a workable circumstance.

The question may arise as to whether this proposal would place faculty in our science departments at a competitive disadvantage. Accordingly, a review of the situation on our peer campuses was undertaken. The results show that of the 10 universities in our peer group, only 5 have branch biology libraries, 4 have branch physics libraries, and 3 have branch chemistry libraries. (Of our 10 peers, 7 have branch math libraries and 6 have branch geology libraries).

As a test of whether the elimination of the branch science libraries would undermine the various departments’ opportunity to achieve national recognition, we conducted a study of chemistry branch libraries. Accordingly, a separate review was made of the universities whose chemistry departments were ranked by NSF. Of the 88 ranked institutions, 23 did not have a branch chemistry library and 11 of these were more highly ranked than Nebraska. In addition, only 25 had stand-alone Chemistry libraries. All others were combined with other sciences or engineering and many of these were in buildings separate from where the chemistry faculty were housed. Thus it does not appear that the proposal places our science departments at a competitive disadvantage.