Sullivan responds to petition to preserve Alderman stacks

The statement makes no concessions to the movement that garnered widespread support

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The proposed renovations to Alderman would cut a significant amount of space for physical books. Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

Outgoing University President Teresa Sullivan and Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Katsouleas recently sent a message to two University faculty members to respond to their petition, which pleaded with the Board of Visitors to alter its plan to cut 40 and 70 percent of the library shelf space at Alderman Library.

In their June 18 note to Assoc. English Prof. John Parker and visiting English scholar John Bugbee, Sullivan and Katsouleas wrote that the $160 million library renovations — which would expand study space in Alderman Library at the expense of shelving — considered more than just book space.

“True optimization is never achieved by considering only a single parameter,” they said in a copy of the letter obtained by The Cavalier Daily. “Instead we must take into account usability, compact browsable shelving, adjacent assets for shelving such as the first floor of Clemons, and archival environments such as the one at Ivy.”

While the note acknowledges “Universities are forums for constructive debate and dissent,” the two administrators didn’t make concessions on space for physical books.  

Bugbee and Parker responded individually to the administrators. The emails — obtained by The Cavalier Daily — echo frustration with the process and decision-making. 

“It's hard to believe that the University is fundamentally committed to maintaining itself as a world-class space for print-based learning when, on being given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to renovate its main library, it decides to do so in a way that makes devastating cuts to the building's capacity for print,” Bugbee wrote in his email.

Bugbee added that “there's been very little evidence that these suggestions [to preserve Alderman’s stacks] have been taken seriously.”

In his email, Parker wrote that the assertion the library could maintain its current collection while cutting large swaths of its shelf space is “magical thinking.”

Despite the frustration, both faculty members said they appreciate the administration’s discussion of maintaining open lines of communication, though Bugbee said — without changes to the renovation plans — the words are beginning to “ring a bit hollow in so many ears.”

The Board reviewed the the renovation designs in early June, but the approval process isn’t over — the plans will be presented to the Virginia General Assembly in its 2019 legislative session.

This article has been updated to accurately reflect the nature of Bugbee and Parker’s message to the administration.

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