– A town hall meeting was held on November 6 to discuss the closing of the Ward E. Barnes Library on University of Missouri-St. Louis’ South Campus.
PHOTO: Ward E. Barnes Library on the South Campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis. Photo by Sarah Myers for The Current 2013 ©

By Karlyne Killebrew, Staff Writer for The Current

Ward E. Barnes Library on UMSL’s South Campus. Photo by Sarah Myers for The Current 2013 (c)

On November 6, a town hall meeting was held in the Museum Room of the Provincial House at 4 p.m. to discuss the closing of the Ward E. Barnes Library on South Campus.

Cameron Roark, sophomore, criminology and criminal justice, vice chair of the Student Government Association, worked with the University of Missouri–St. Louis chapter of Young Activist United to bring together this event and allow the student body the opportunity to have their questions answered.

Chris Dames, dean of libraries, began with a condensed explanation of why the library must be closed.

“This basically has become an issue of budget cuts…in the library that has been about $100,000 a year for the last five years,” Dames said. “The total amount is $493,400. To pay for those cuts we have eliminated 10 positions. I am anticipating another 5 years of cuts of about $100,000 per year and I must reorganize the libraries to still provide good service with fewer employees.”

Dames went on to describe how the library system’s development contributed to the plan.

“Barnes Library usage never got over 45,000 [gate count], then we put in a computer lab and it jumped to 100,000. Then we put the journals online causing a significant drop….we are going, more and more, online. A physical library isn’t as important as it used to be.”

Upon closure, the physical books in the Barnes Library will be divided and relocated to either the Thomas Jefferson Library on North Campus or to an off-site storage area where they will still be retrievable upon special request.

Although these changes won’t go into effect until the end of the spring 2014 semester, some students still fear that they’re greatly inconvenienced. For many students, the biggest issue is the loss of the computer lab and printing stations on South Campus. Although the meeting was by no means packed, the students who were in attendance unanimously questioned what the plan was for providing them with a suitable alternative resource.

The faculty response was to remind students that UMSL is all one university collectively, and that the governmental bodies of the university are working hard to meet the students’ needs while conquering the surmounting “fiscal issues.”

“The campus has a $300 million deferred maintenance problem…they are looking for ways to save money on buildings we no longer use. From the perspective of the campus, in other areas, it’s a great way to consolidate the use of space,” Dr. James Krueger, Vice Chancellor of Managerial and Technological Services, said.

“We are looking at how many computers do we need, laptops you can check out, space for you to sit, printers for you to connect to…right now ITS and TLC are looking at how to make sure that there are enough computers in the right places to meet all the students’ needs…the library won’t close until May… We have time to hear from all of you…we want to see what the demand is…one of the things we have right here is an opportunity to say what are your needs,” Glen Cope, PhD, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs, said, adding that the meeting served as an opportunity for students to state their needs.

Courtney Hayes, senior, political science, sergeant at arms for the SGA and treasurer for Young Activists United, addressed the other key issue: a student voice in the decision-making process.

“We were not asked for our input when the decision was made and we had to organize this town hall ourselves to get answers,” Hayes said. “We want there to be an institutionalized process where we will be asked for our opinions and we will be able to share and it can actually have a difference. So far, that hasn’t happened yet.”

Vicki Sauter, PhD, Chair of the Library Committee, contested that, “…at the same point that faculty had input to this, we had students sitting on the committee who had input to this…it’s not that we didn’t tell you when we knew…the fact of the matter is there was student input [at] exactly the same time and forum as there was faculty input.”

A brief discussion ensued concerning campus involvement and the present statutes concerning student involvement in the decision making process.

When asked what the alternative solutions concerning computer lab access were, there was no concrete course of action. There was a plan mentioned earlier to both the SGA body and in a press release to utilize the Barnes space for the College of Education. According to Cope, those plans, which include trying to figure out ways to ensure more space for computers and printers, are not final.

The Ward E. Barnes library is set to close on May 17, 2014.

 © The Current 2013