UNSWORTH: On the U.Va. library system

Library policies reflect the needs of our many users

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Libraries are communal collections — one book has many “owners” over time. 

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

We appreciate the time and thought that Katherine Smith put into her editorial regarding Library recalls and printing. We’re glad that students care about the Library’s collections and services, and we’d like to talk to The Cavalier Daily readers about why those are the way they are, and how students can help to improve them. 

Although printers and copiers are located in our libraries, they are not operated or controlled by the libraries. The University’s Printing & Copying Services operates the printers and contracts with a vendor to run the PrintMe service. Unlimited free printing, even if it were affordable for the University’s budget, would lead to waste detrimental to sustainability efforts.  Some universities do provide a quota of free printing for each student, and that generally gets paid for out of some fee, or out of tuition or is rolled into the university’s negotiation with a vendor. If students would like to engage these issues, we recommend they contact Kelly Hogg, Director of Printing & Copying Services.  

Regarding double sided printing, although there may not be a big difference in price between double and single sided printing, as the cost of the printing is in the ink and not the paper, defaulting to double-sided would certainly save paper. We changed the printers to that default several years ago, but ultimately changed the default back when we received complaints that professors prefer single-sided papers. It would be useful to have a recommendation on this from student government. 

Our recall policy is meant to strike a fair balance between the needs of our many users. Libraries are communal collections — one book has many “owners” over time. Still, sometimes many readers need the book at the same time. University Library policy allows a 10-day period in which the current borrower can finish up work with a book and return it for the next researcher to use. Perhaps that period should be shorter, especially now that we have book scanners available to all. Again, this is a question on which a recommendation from student government would be welcome.  

Ms. Smith’s editorial seemed to take issue with the fact that members of the general public have borrowing privileges in our libraries, and that deserves separate comment. As a research library we have service obligations to scholars everywhere. Again, policies on things like loan and recall periods are meant to strike the right balance among these obligations to local, state and international patrons of the Library, but that balance should be regularly reviewed, and the student-run UVA Library Council would be a good place for students to participate in setting those priorities. If you are interested in joining, please contact Teaching and Learning Librarian Paula Archey.

We realize that professors often assign certain books for class use and the Library copies of those titles can, indeed, cause “recall wars.” We dislike these almost as much as you do! The best way to avoid recall wars is for the professor to put copies of class materials on reserve. Reserve books, often in Clemons, have limited check out periods and are ideal when you just need to read a chapter at a time. If you’re in a recall war around class readings, ask your professor to put those readings on reserve. Even in mid-semester, we can help with that, email us at library@virginia.edu.

Finally, if you have any questions about Library policies, or anything else about the Library, please ask us. We are here to help — we want to help. Ask any Library staff member in any library (they should be wearing blue-and-white name tags), contact us at our email or Ask A Librarian.

John Unsworth is a Professor of English and Dean of Libraries at the University.

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