Did anyone else cringe when plans to close the libraries at Vermont State Colleges after they merge into the Vermont State University on July 1?
Ostensibly, closing the libraries is being proposed as a way to reflect how students are learning – and to save costs. The proposal will cut seven full-time and three part-time jobs.
Along with closing the physical libraries in favor of all digital libraries, the proposal downgrades sports programs at two campuses and at the third, creates sports leagues.
The spaces currently occupied by the libraries will be repurposed to community spaces and the books and materials will be donated. Needless to say, the proposal has sparked protest across the campuses and school administrators have apologized for how the announcement was made, but at this point, are disinclined to back down.
It’s no secret that the state college system is in trouble financially. That’s not new news, and it is not something that cutting seven full-time and three part-time jobs will fix. There will be a cost to dismantling the libraries and getting rid of the materials. There will be a cost to reconfigure the spaces.
At the heart of the administration’s reasoning is the fact that the decision was based on a survey which reveals that most students are getting their work done with digital media.
VTDigger reports that according to Jim Allen, the Vermont State Colleges’ library director, the survey was emailed to students, posted to the library’s website and to Canvas, an online educational platform.
Slightly more than 500 students completed the survey and Vermont State University has roughly 5,500 students, meaning the student response rate was about 10%, per VTDigger.
That is an extremely small sample to be using to determine that students are no longer learning or doing schoolwork using the libraries.
That doesn’t mean that learning has shifted away from libraries and books, but does it really warrant closing libraries? Are we as learning communities and communities in general ready for the end of the era of books?