Driven by changes in the use of academic libraries, trends in lending, and financial challenges, Dartmouth is preparing to permanently close Dartmouth Library’s Kresge Physical Sciences Library and Paddock Music Library at the end of the academic year, Sue Mehrer, dean of libraries, announced today.
Though the two libraries have been closed to visitors since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their collections have been available to students, faculty, and staff at Baker-Berry Library. High-use material from the Kresge and Paddock collections will be relocated to Baker-Berry over the coming months with the remainder of the collections to be housed in the library’s offsite shelving facility and available by request. Kresge is located in Fairchild Physical Sciences Center and Paddock is in the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
“At Dartmouth Library, we regularly review our operations in order to fully support teaching, learning, and research. We look at trends, usage data, and new modes of scholarship to allocate finite resources where they bring the most value to our academic community,” Mehrer says. “Library staff will work closely with the departments affected by these changes to ensure that faculty and students continue to have high-level support to advance their work.”
The value that academic libraries bring to their communities continues to evolve far beyond simply providing access to collections, she says. Increasingly, libraries are active partners in the research process; collaborators in grant-funded projects; co-educators in teaching and learning; specialists in data analysis, data visualization, and data management; and experts in traditional and digital preservation, digital scholarship, and scholarly publishing.
Mehrer says there has been considerable change in the use of the library’s physical collections. The circulation of materials in the library system overall declined by 35% between 2008 and 2018. At Paddock, lending has decreased by 73% over that period; at Kresge, circulation increased slightly over the 10-year period, but in recent years has also seen a decrease of around 12%. Mehrer says students and researchers continue to shift from using physical materials to using digital resources.
“A decrease in lending does not correspond to a decrease in demand or use of information resources in all formats. Having access to physical materials will continue to be important in liberal arts education, but usage patterns have changed. This provides us with an opportunity to rethink our operations and bring together more of our circulation services as well as integrate collections to manage our physical assets more effectively,” she says.
Provost Joseph Helble says the Dartmouth Library is “central to the education of our students and to the research they and our faculty do every day. The way we use the library will continue to evolve, as the library and its staff enhance and advance our search for new knowledge.”
Mehrer and her leadership team have been looking at what the library can do to both support operations and invest in emerging areas, she says.
“It is critical that we protect resources for our collections and invest in our staff’s expertise. We are continually assessing our operations to find efficiencies and optimize workflows and staffing structures to address the constraints we face,” she says.
The library has had to decrease spending by $2 million over five years, through the 2022 fiscal year (which ends on June 30, 2022), says Mehrer, as the result of funds being reallocated to academic programs and to counter a structural institutional deficit that existed before the pandemic.
There will be no loss of employment for any staff as a result of the change. The staff members who work in Paddock and Kresge will be integrated into operations at Baker-Berry Library, the main library in the Dartmouth Library system, Mehrer says.
The student study space in Kresge is expected to stay in place and will reopen with the rest of the campus when COVID-19 Task Force planners determine it is safe to do so. It is not yet known how the remaining space in the two libraries will be used.
Susan Boutwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org