Loyola Professor Halts Book Destruction
Loyola University Chicago
October 8, 2002
Spacing Troubles at Cudahy:
Professor Halts Book Destruction, But Solution Temporary
by Piet Levy
Photo: Books cram shelves inside Cudahy Library at Lake Shore campus. Over 49,000 books were slated for removal and destruction, but now wait in temporary storage.
Robert Bucholz, a history professor at Loyola for the past 12 years, has long been a strong supporter of the university. He has spoken to freshman classes at orientation, attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with his students and even appeared in an edition of The Teaching Company's distinguished video series, in which he lectured about English history from the Tudors to the Stewards, his field of expertise.
But on August 13, Bucholz went against Loyola policy for the first time in his career when he got a call from an employee at Cudahy Library who said thousands of books were being boxed up and stacked in the library's echo room to be sent off for disposal.
Immediately after the conversation, Bucholz rushed to the library and started clawing his way through the boxes, saving prized books that were about to be destroyed and angrily demanding answers.
His actions put the book disposal on hold and have prompted a months-long process of selection by Loyola faculty who now have to choose wich of these books will be maintained by the university and which will be removed.
"No book [should] be destroyed on the orders of the institution for which we work," Bucholz said in an interview with the Phoenix that followed an open meeting for the board of libraries last Wednesday.
Karla Petersen, the Dean of Libraries, recommended the disposal along with the library administration and with the approval of Provost Peter Facione.
Bucholz e-mailed Dean Petersen on the evening of Aug. 13 after learning of the library's plan to dispose of these books. In the e-mail, Bucholz pleaded for Loyola faculty's examination and salvation of printed volumes set for destruction. Petersen agreed with his request.
The books were sent to a temporary storage facility in the city, where they will remain until November or December.
Dean Petersen expressed apologies about the library administration's swift decision for disposal. She said she was pressured to correct a serious problem in a short period -- a two-week window between the second semester session and fall semester.
"We knew [the move and spacing readjustment] would create a significant disturbance in the library, so we had to carry out the project during a time when classes were not in session," Petersen said.
With that requirement, and a limited time frame for fund availability, the library could only afford to make the move during summer break.
Dean Petersen stressed the library was not simply clearing out old books to garner more shelf space, for which Cudahy demands a quarter mile for new acquired volumes each year. According to Dean Petersen, the entire library is well past capacity, which is visible in the overstocked shelves and study areas packed with books.
In a written explanation distributed at the board meeting, Petersen wrote that according to a report by the American Library Association, "'shelves become uncomfortably crowded by the time 80 percent of the total space is occupied and become almost unusable when 90 percent is used.' With Cudahy library above 95 percent of its current shelving capacity, overcrowding has reached the crisis point."
The move was further motivated by the administration's wish to provide more study space for students in light of the university's growing enrollment. A guideline is that a university library should provide studying space for 20 percent of its population, ideally 2,000 seats at the Lakeside libraries, Petersen said. There are currently only 1,200 designated seats.
The plan for the library then, according to Petersen, was to shift the spacing at Cudahy on all three floors drastically, moving periodicals to the first floor, hard copy reference materials to Stack Deck B, all government materials to Stack Deck A and consolidating two service desks. This would also provide more study space on the mezzanine level and in Reference.
Still, some books had to go. To determine what books could be destroyed, the library administration reviewed the library catalog for circulation activity since 1987, when the catalog was put online. 74,480 volumes were never reclassified on the online catalog, of which 49,593 volumes, about 66 percent, never circulated. These were the volumes issued for disposal, Petersen wrote in the distributed explanation. This makes up 2 percent of the library's total collection.
Those circulated 10 or more times are still in the general collection; those circulated one to nine times are being held in a storage facility in the basement of Dumbach Hall. If only one volume of a whole set was circulated, the entire set was salvaged.
However, Bucholz said many books selected for destruction are far too large to check out, and while he used these books for in-library research, often putting them back on the shelf himself, they were never scanned and thus never formally circulated.
Thus vital works for the history collection were to be destroyed. For Bucholz, these included "The Manuscripts of the House of Lords," eleven volumes of sessional papers covering the House of Lords from 1550 to 1814 which was purchased in the early 20th century; and "The Calendar of State Papers, James II," a two-volume summary of all the government papers during James' rule from 1685 to 1688. Both works are very rare. Since the summer, the administration has sifted through the uncirculated Dewey numbers and is retaining any books held by fewer than five libraries in the world, according to OCLC Worldcat, which chronicles the collections of 45,000 libraries in 84 countries.
To spare some of the remaining volumes, faculty will be able to select those books they wish to keep from a list on a secure Web page. On average, only'20 percent of the books in each department can be chosen; they will then be moved to the storage space in the basement of Dumbach Hall. The other volumes will be put on sale for Loyola faculty, and anything not purchased will be donated to an outside sale. The books not accepted for the sale will be destroyed.
A crisis like this, according to Bucholz, should indicate to the university that a new facility is needed.
"What all of this has done is put on the radar screen that eventually the university will need a new, larger library," Bucholz said.
Nevertheless, while the school's finances are slowly being replenished, Dean Petersen stressed the importance of a permanent storage facility, which she doesn:t believe will be financially attainable for another three years.
"[What's happened] has helped our space problem a bit, but not for long," Petersen said.
Meanwhile, Bucholz expressed sadness that any books had to be destroyed. "One person's useless book is another person's treasure trove," he said.
Dean Petersen was equally disappointed, but "it' s nobody's fault," she said. "It just is."