“It doesn’t make any sense that our 100-year-old unique facility should be terminated,” said Walter Munk, professor emeritus at the UCSD Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and longtime SIO Library user.
On top of the $5 million that has been cut from the university’s library system budget, administrators have been told to plan for an additional $3 million slash. The result, according to university librarian Brian Schottlaender, is that UCSD will have no option other than to consolidate the eight unique campus libraries into a just few general facilities. In a letter he addressed to colleagues on the UCSD website, Schottlaender indicated that with the proposed cuts, the university would have to close, at a minimum, four library facilities: the Center for Library and Instructional Computing Services (CLICS), the International Relations/Pacific Studies Library (IR/PS), the Medical Center Library and the SIO Library.
For Matt Leslie, a Ph.D. student in marine biology, the closure of the SIO Library would mean the death of what little sense of community he and fellow students are able to find on a campus so fractured by intensely focused research on a wide variety of subjects.
“The community at Scripps can be very diverse. There are biologists of every kind, and it’s almost like they speak different languages,” Leslie said. “The library building is a central gathering place for that community, a place for us to come together, and it’s important to have that. My graduate experience would have been very different without that building.”
The library, which was established in 1903 and moved to its current location in 1915, houses some of the world’s oldest and most unique archives of oceanographic history. Researchers who take advantage of the extensive collection, as well as the knowledge of the librarians, may find their routines a little more cumbersome with the impending closure. Should the library be absorbed into either the central Geisel Library or the Biomedical Library, SIO’s collections would have to be relocated little by little, said Peter Brueggeman, director of the SIO Library and Archives. With more than 225,000 books and 700 print periodicals, such a relocation would take some time. Until then, researchers will have to request materials through a paging system and pick them up at another location. The historical archives would, like they are now, remain in the closed SIO Library building, available only by appointment.
In the meantime, Leslie and other students have started a petition to save the library. With more than 700 signatures, the group is readying itself to present its cause to administrators.
It has also engaged social media as a tactic. The group’s Facebook page, “Save SIO Library,” illustrates the concern from library users. One student posted, “So sad, great international resource and archives and treasures for studying the oceans … save SIO library!” Another wrote, “This library CANNOT go; it is THE library at UCSD for ecology and conservation biology.”
Leslie said the library is a world-renowned repository for oceanographic collections.
“The books, maps, charts and all the older texts are key to what we do,” he said. “They’re one-of-a-kind collections. A lot of us feel it would be awful to see them go somewhere else. We don’t want to see them consolidated in a warehouse and not continue to be a living collection.”
Apart from the loss of a communal studying ground, the closure of the library has another implication: the loss of jobs. Brueggeman said, as of yet, there have been no layoff notices given to SIO staff. In a document outlining the campus libraries’ budget cuts from 2008 to 2011, however, money-saving measures call for eliminations of “staff and librarian provisions not needed to operate the library.” Brueggeman and other faculty members hope that, through some creative restructuring, the university will stop short of thinning out its staff.
“We are hoping to repurpose, retrain and redeploy staff and through attrition, avoid layoffs,” said Dolores Davies, director of communications for the UCSD library system.
Leslie and his peers know the axe is inevitable, but they’re still hoping for a solution that everyone can live with.
“Cuts are ubiquitous, but it’s just unfortunate that this first tier has fallen on libraries, something that’s so important to an academic center,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be in an administrative position, having to make cuts somewhere. We’re just hoping that we can show them that this is a unique resource and say, ‘Look, these people are going to be impacted.’”
In response to the impending closure of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library, some faculty members have voiced opposition in a letter that was sent out on March 21. Addressed to the chancellor, vice chancellors, university librarian and the academic senate chair, the letter expressed the faculty members' deep concern over the closure and possible dispersion of libraries holdings, which the letter describes as "the world's richest and largest collection in the marine sciences." Headed by Scripps researcher Gabi Laske and professor Miriam Kastner (also chair of the SIO Library Committee), the group requested that the library's collections be left on site, that the budget reductions not target the university's only marine sciences library and that the library remain open and its archives accessible, "even if at seriously reduced hours."