Madsvassarblog.com sat down with Rachel Kitzinger, the Dean of Academic Planning and Affairs, to talk about the latest controversy involving the library's earlier closing time.
Mads: For those people who didn't see your all-campus email the other day, what were the reasons for the library's new closing time?
Dean Kitzinger: This is a decision that came as a result of a complex staffing negotiation. We didn't have time to come up with solutions for the consequences of what that negotiation required. If we'd had longer prep time we would have started to talk about how to prevent these consequences from happening.
By "staffing negotation," do you mean issues involving the budget or staff availability?
A combination of both.
So what is the plan now?
This is an immediate reaction to a particular situation... We are taking the month of September, which tends to be quieter in the library, to find a solution. We're trying to do that as quickly as we can. When dealing with people's working lives and certain restrictions with a union, it's not always easy to make adjustments as quickly as we'd like to... No matter what the solution, the circulation desk will not be open past midnight.
Every area of the college is affected by the economic situation, but decisions have to be guided by what we've stated are our mission and our values. The library is the heart of our mission.
Why was there some miscommunication between administration and the VSA on this?
The initial conversation with the VSA was at a meeting on a different topic. The VSA didn't have sufficient information because we hadn't had a meeting yet. We have since spoken about the next step to be taken, which will hopefully happen by the end of September.
And what is that step?
We are working with the VSA to develop a 24-hour room in Main [such as the Faculty Commons] that will allow students to be ensured of a quiet place to study. We are looking to add features, such as a coffee machine or a printer to the Faculty Commons. This space will hopefully be open as soon as possible.
In the long term, we would like to set up a room in the library, which might be ready for the 2010-2011 school year... [but] such a room in the library would cost money we don't have to set up because there is no one room that can be isolated.
Are you aware of the student reaction?
I first heard from the VSA that there was concern. I then got a couple of emails from students and looked at your blog. I then got more responses after the all-campus email, some of which were expressing gratitude for the additional information.
There are some petititions going around. Will those help?
I believe in petitions, as long as people sign them with some degree of information. Petitions are a way of taking the temperature of concern and they are a good way of giving students a voice. That is the form of input we want.
If there's one thing you want studnets to know about this situation, what is it?
It's more to me a process that I want people to believe in. These decisions are taken carefully and thoughtfully and in as complete consideration of as many factors as possible... I would never cut library hours if I could help it. The library is essential to students' lives.
Image via AAVC.