Wyat Taylor/The Daily Evergreen
In line with a nation-wide trend, three WSU libraries closed at the end of spring semester, consolidating their material to the Holland, Terrell and Owen libraries.
All the space the George B. Brain Education, Agricultural Sciences and Architecture libraries occupied was given back by the library to each of their respective departments for other uses, said Jay Starratt, the WSU dean of libraries.
“We met with the departments to understand what would be best for each move,” Starratt said. “We moved the education department’s children’s books to the science library. It is a collection they use on the spot, and is now across from the education building.”
A.G. Rud, the dean of the WSU College of Education, said with the exception of the children's books, the George B. Brain moved its collections to Holland. The collection will have a good home there, he said.
“The large juvenile picture books and such useful material for classes are in Owen, easily available to students,” Rud said. “We are very pleased to have the Math Learning Center in the former Brain space.”
Staff repurposed the College of Education library in Cleveland as a math-tutoring lab, Starratt said. Also, the Architecture Library in Carpenter Hall now houses the interior design program, previously located at the Spokane campus.
The Agricultural Sciences Department has not released plans for its vacated library space in Fischer Hall, he said.
Starratt said with larger budget cuts, running the libraries and their desks became too expensive. It is not likely they will reopen, he said.
“Most research institutions have been closing branches across the country,” Starratt said. “They are nice spaces for students to gather, for cohorts to work together, but most library services now are delivered online.”
A high percentage of the WSU libraries’ budget goes to digital materials, Starratt said. The expansion for print material has declined, but the department still spends $5 million a year on materials not openly accessible on the Internet.
“We spend about $11 to $12 million a year in all the libraries including the Vancouver, Tri-cities and Spokane campuses,” Starratt said. “The cost of materials goes up much faster than our budget has ever gone up, and it is getting harder and harder to acquire the same materials.”
As they consolidate, Starratt said they have a plan in the capital budget to build a storage unit for less-used material. He said they also want to renovate Holland with compact shelving, but even without the storage unit space will soon be limited.
“When things become digital, providers can sell them differently,” Starratt said. “We buy jointly with other schools sometimes. There are a lot of innovative ways to expand the collection in times of diminishing resources.”
With the closing of the three department libraries, Starratt said the move would have impacted students 10 or 15 years ago, but not so much nowadays. He said the library still delivers online through interlibrary loan and can physically deliver material to graduate students and faculty.
“I think the first thing (the closings) mean is students might not have the place to gather where they have before to study and meet,” Starratt said. “Most of the departments don’t have their own library. Most research libraries around the country are closing branches.”
As for jobs, Starratt said the library department has lost about 15 to 20 percent of its positions over the last five years. Like all departments on campus, he said, libraries reassign and prioritize to save what they can.
Erin Derryberry, a senior management and operations major, said despite the availability of materials online, many students still prefer having a book to hold and see directly. Reading online material with references such as articles is not always helpful, Derryberry said.
“You can get people to scan in articles to send to you from other libraries, but I feel like when you have a book in front of you it is a lot more comfortable because you can see it,” she said. “You can physically touch it, you can flip back and forth between pages.”
Though closing certain college libraries may seem inconvenient for students in those departments, Holland and Terrell libraries are not too far away, Derryberry said. She does not think the relocations will have too much of an impact on students, she said.
The CUB and other student attractions at the heart of campus draw up the number of people walking in and out of Holland and Terrell, Starratt said. Those who had the luxury of walking down the hall from class for a book now simply have to walk across campus.