Overflowing with books

SU students, library officials and others discuss one of the library's growing challenges: Too many books.

Savanna Kemp felt outraged when she heard the Syracuse University Library planned to move 100,000 books per year to a storage facility more than four hours away.

Kemp organized a Facebook group in opposition to the plan, which attracted nearly 350 students, and spoke out at Student Association and University Senate meetings about the dilemma. After hearing the opinions of Kemp and other students, library officials put the plan on hold last month. 

“They have this master plan but they have no money to go through with it.”
- Savanna Kemp

“It was really heartening to see we were listened to,” said Kemp, a junior majoring in English and women’s studies.

Kemp and more than 100 others turned out for a forum at E.S. Bird Library on Wednesday.  The hour and a half long forum, called “What is a Library?”, featured questions from the audience about the library’s priorities heading into the future.

The meeting centered on the plan to relocate the books to a warehouse in Patterson, N.Y.  The goal of the plan, library officials say, was to make more study space for students and to create additional capacity for new collections. 

Charlotte Hess, associate dean of collections for research and scholarly communication, said she regularly sees every seat taken on the first three floors of the library.

“They’re working, they’re using it,” she said. “I would hate to see it go away.”

Hess said keeping the books in Syracuse could mean taking away additional study space for students.  She said the library had done extensive research and explored every possible option before deciding on the plan to relocate the books to the storage facility.

“There are a lot of perceptions about the decisions that were made that weren’t accurate,” she said.

Dale King, an assistant dean for the library, said that of the $17 million annual library budget, $7 million is appropriated for collections. About $9.3 million goes to salary and benefits, which only leaves about $700,000 for additional improvements to the library each year. King emphasized that the library does not have that much extra cash to make these changes and improvements.

Kemp saw the tight budget as part of a larger problem.

“They have this master plan but they have no money to go through with it,” she said, adding that the university needs to set aside a larger budget for the library.

Hess said the library is continuing to evaluate its options and will take into consideration the feedback that it received from those who attended Wednesday's session.

“If this did nothing else than help people understand that there are different needs, than that is a positive outcome."

Too many books+library=oxymoron

What is the purpose of a library? To collect books...not to gather students. Find the space and that space should not be 4 hours away!

Books and students are compatible

Most of the bottom two floors of Bird are devoid of books. The tables are sometimes crowded, but there is ample space between tables for thousands of books, especially on the lower level. Please take a look at some of the world's most beautiful libraries:


This topic should be considered from the perspective of the added beauty books bring to a setting. That beauty creates an atmosphere conducive to study and thought.

A great library is an artistic expression, not a storage bin for books.

Gary Pavela

Just one opinion

Because I am serious about my studies, I can't recount the number of times I have been very pleased to find very specific and well rounded resources for a paper or project. I fear that my undergraduate experience would have been greatly diminished if these books were not readily available.

books not tables

It is not the library's job to provide study or meeting space for students. Is it nice since there aren't many other spaces on campus for this form of gathering? Yes. However, it is the job of Student Affairs and the Student Association to brainstorm how to meet this need.

Other places to study or meet up with group members:
Schine - Panasci Lounge
Carnegie - 2nd Floor interior building; basement and stacks of library
Huntington Hall, Newhouse, SOM, Life Sciences, Eggers, and several other buildings on campus have congregating spaces available for group projects
We also have two other libraries, Carnegie, listed above and Sims.

The main library on campus should not be removing books for the purpose of creating additional seating for students to study, no matter how much anyone "would hate to see it go away."

Part of the resistance to shipping out books is the fact that the library's collection of books has been slowly withering away in the past 5-10 years (I have been here that long). If the basement still had it's collection and the references on the first floor were still present, then perhaps this conversation of shipping books out would be better received. The library should not have to pick up the slack of our meager student center. The university should be able to find an alternative to making the main library into a student study center.

"too many books" misrepresents the problem.

It is at very best misleading to say that the problem is that Bird Library has "too many books." According to the reports of the Association of Research Library, Syracuse ranks 71st out of 113 institutions in total volumes held, with just a shade above 3.1 million. Harvard has 16 million. Cornell has 8 million. Pitt has 5.6 million. Rochester has 3.7 million. Syracuse also ranks near the bottom in library expenditures (88th out of 113), and library investment index (89th of 113). Bird currently holds half the volumes it was originally designed to hold, and the current "master plan" has them reducing holdings in the humanities by over 70%.

So the problem is emphatically and demonstrably NOT "too many books."

The numbers are there in black and white for all to see. Here is the ARL report for 2007-2008: http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/arlstat08.pdf

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