Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Open Letter to Destler, Preece, Lowry

I sent the following letter to University administration, copying those who I thought may or may not also be interested.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Closing Paul Wasserman Library
Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2005 08:14:45 -0400
From: Kevin Stone Fries
To: preece@umd.edu
CC: dbarlow@umd.edu, wdestler@deans.umd.edu, clowry@umd.edu

Dear Jenny,

It has come to my attention that more than just administrative changes
are expected in Wasserman Library at your request, and up to this point
with no community discussion. While no doubt you have the authority as
dean to make executive decisions, as a currently enrolled graduate
student who intends to use Wasserman Library over the next couple of
years, as a former student group leader in CLIS, and a self-styled
student activist, I have to say that I find this decision and the
process for reaching it alarming, with all due respect.

It is my intention to urge my graduate student colleagues, alumni, and
community members interested in CLIS to actively encourage open debate
on this topic because I think it goes to the heart of many complicated
and inter-related issues, including the university’s mission of
excellence in teaching, research, and service.

The communications from Dean Lowry’s office in my possession indicate
that CLIS administration has not and does not in the future intend to
include students in this administrative fait accompli. I find this
seriously disappointing, even while I think I understand in part your
difficult position.

Among the most important reasons that I feel that requesting reversal of
the decision as well as the inclusion of students and alumni in ways
more substantive than have been realized to date are that the physical
dismantling of Wasserman will likely seriously undermine your ability to
convince current and future alumni to support your fundraising
objectives and build an even more impressive CLIS-community. Schools
raise money from individual alumni not because of the existence of a
small number of unknown advanced researchers (no matter how laurelled in
academia) on the faculty, but because the school (which is different
from the extraordinary talent of individual teachers) genuinely reaches
out to them as people. Closing Wasserman Library, in my personal
opinion, compromises the ability of the College to demonstrate student
presence is valued, as well as the College’s ability to find the right
balance among excellence in research, teaching, and service.

My letter and my future activism are done intended to encourage a
detailed, respectful difference of opinion. As a recent graduate, I am
intimately familiar with the treasures of the CLIS and McKeldin
community, and as SAM President I took every opportunity to showcase
those while also encouraging my classmates to work to add what they see
as improvements in student life at CLIS.

Please reverse your decision, for the sake of current and future
students, as well as for the life of the College. I am more than happy
to discuss this with you, but as my current student status does not
include any student office, I am not sure how that would be most


Kevin Stone Fries

Copies to:

Provost William Destler

Dean Charles Lowry

CLIS Alumni President M. Marie Maxwell

SAM President Megan Smith

Collegium Representatives Viva Weinraub and Rob Jensen

Numerous professional contacts who may or may not share my opinions


Blogger Carrie said...

Following Kevin's lead, here is the letter that I sent Dean Preece this morning:

Dear Dean Preece:

Welcome to CLIS! I'm sorry that you have hit on such a contentious issue as the future of Wasserman Library so early in your tenure.

As a current CLIS student, I am disturbed by the seemingly unilateral decision to close the Paul Wasserman Library without an substantive discussion, especially with students and alumni (who presumably would know best the benefits and challenges of Wasserman). I am especially disturbed that I learned of this decision from my fellow students yesterday and not from any communication from either CLIS or the larger University administration.

I have read your staff memo on the subject and it is still not clear to me what benefit the University hopes to derive from eliminating a subject library (and from the library school, no less!) While I don't doubt that there are pros as well as cons to the move, I don't think they have been articulated well and I would encourage you to explain your thoughts to the CLIS student body.

I can articulate, quite clearly I think, the detriment to CLIS that the movement of Wasserman Library would bring. Like many CLIS students, I attend school part-time while continuing to work full-time. This provides the University of Maryland with the benefit of a student who is paying her own way, but does mean that I have less time to spend on
campus than full-time students. The fact that Wasserman is located in the same building where I have my classes is a tremendous benefit to me. It makes it easy to copy reserve readings before class or during break or to consult reference materials only available in Wasserman quickly. In addition, the Wasserman Library is a social space and provides a place for me to meet informally with my CLIS colleagues. Working full-time, I do not have time to attend meetings of student organizations, great though they may be. My only opportunity for networking, which is critical in the library profession, is in Wasserman.

The CLIS website touts as a selling point to prospective students that "Only steps from CLIS classrooms are impressive computer facilities reserved for CLIS students and faculties and a remarkable collection of information studies literature in the Paul Wasserman Library. " I think this is a great selling point and that losing Wasserman would be a tremendous loss to CLIS students. Books and other resources can be moved, but as librarians we know that a library offers much more than that. The concept of a "library as place" is a particularly meaningful part of
the discussion that I hope you will have with the entire CLIS community.

I encourage you to reopen this decision and have meetings and conversations with students, alumni and faculty. I look
forward to hearing the benefits to CLIS students of moving the library, just as I look forward to sharing some of the costs that appear at least not to have been considered.

Thanks for your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

Carrie R. Ansell

CC: Provost William Destler

Dean Charles Lowry

9:17 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thanks, Carrie! I wish everyone would post their letters like this (to the CLIS list, this blog, another blog, etc.) so we all could benefit from other's opinions.

I really like your letter.

All the best,

1:20 PM  
Blogger MCS said...

You know, I really wish I could say that I was surprised, or shocked by this decision, but the administration of CLIS never seemed to value the library nearly so much as the students and faculty do. So I'm not exactly surprised, but I am deeply saddened.

This leaves me, as a recent graduates, still looking for her first permenant job, in the somewhat untenable position of having to explain to prospective employers that, yes, I did get my library science degree from the school that feels the appropriate thing to eliminate to create space and money is the library.

Furthermore, there is more to Wasserman Library than the collection, or the space. I learned as much there as I ever did in a class. Karen and Tim are more than just a resource. They are mentors. They are advisors. They are problem-solvers. They are counselors.

I took four classes a semester, and the third semester I was there, I also did 20 hour GAship. None of that would have been possible without Wasserman Library, and its employees.

So, no, I'm not surprised. But I am truly sorry to hear this news. I do hope that the administration decision. And if they choose not to reverse this decision, I trust they will understand mine. Despite the fact that CLIS gave me an opportunity to work with remarkable faculty and librarians, I cannot consider it as possibility when I decide to continue my education to the PhD level.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Dear MCS,

Thanks for your note. A number of letters about the Ph.D. program have really filled out this conversation and improved upon it. The CLIS Ph.D. program was something I always wanted to know more about, especially after my brief and friendly interactions with my office mates or neighbors in the elevator. That this decision to close PWL dicourages applicants to continue their studies, is a very important and before now unmentioned consequence. Their studies, not just those of the M.L.S. students, will be seriously affected if the closure happens. It is a shame to consider...

10:28 PM  

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