ALA Library Education Assembly
Saturday, June 26, 2010 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Washington Convention Center, 149A/B
Meeting called to order by Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Chair, at 4:00 p.m.
Lynn introduced two special guest speakers who had been invited by the Committee on Education to speak to the assembly about issues regarding library schools facing closure, consolidation, or other kinds of cuts:
1) Linda Smith, Associate Dean at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Graduate School of Library and Information Science
2) Beth Paskoff, Dean of the School of Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University
1. UIUC-GSLIS—Linda Smith spoke first about recent events that affected GSLIS. On March 5 an academic unit review committee was appointed to examine possible structural changes regarding four academic units on campus with less than 40 faculty per unit, which included GSLIS.
Background Information & Challenges:
- UI-UC is part of the Illinois multi-campus university system, which is funded by the state. Currently, the state still owes $335 million to the University of Illinois.
- Additionally, public library systems in the state are facing cuts because of the state budget shortfall. State legislation has been passed that allows universities to borrow up to 75% of what the state owes them to compensate for the shortfall.
- Additional concerns: The University of Illinois is also facing some additional challenges due to changes in administration, which has led to the appointment of both interim and new administrators. Furloughs, voluntary retirement, and voluntary separation incentive packages are some of the measures that have taken place to offset the university’s budget issues. However, academic unit review also took place to determine if there would be any cost-savings if smaller units were folded into larger units.
Proposal of Merger/Alignment:
One of the options that GSLIS faced was a merger with the College of Media. Although GSLIS as a whole was not opposed to alignment with another academic unit, they found that GSLIS had points of intersection with several other units, not just the College of Media.
Ultimately, they determined that realignment with the College of Media would not move the College forward. GSLIS was very proactive throughout the process and documented their responses thoroughly. They also documented initiatives that will help sustain their ability to keep moving forward as a unit.
The final report, which determined that GSLIS should remain an independent academic unit, can be found at http://oc.illinois.edu/budget/projectteams.html. The report is available for public comment until July 1, 2010.
- Linda emphasized that the lesson to take away from the experience is that higher education in the 21st century, especially public higher education, has to find alternative sources of revenue and not rely too heavily on state funding.
- Overall, Linda stated the climate for the entire review process was one of transparency, openness, and collaboration, which is partially a result of the political climate in the state. As a result of the report, there is still work being done to examine other possible revenue streams for the university.
2. LSU SLIS closure—Beth Paskoff reported on the probably closure of the School of Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University.
- Seventeen months ago LSU had proposed examining the realignment of smaller units on campus. SLIS was told they would be realigned with social work, education, and kinesiology. SLIS stated that these were not logical alignments, and asked for possible alignment with computer science to possibly form a College of Informatics, but the request was denied.
- Ultimately, the option for realignment was completely taken off the table because it would not have been cost effective. SLIS has continued to state that they would be open to realignment if it would help with cost savings, but at this point, administrators are no longer discussing realignment as an option.
- On May 21, SLIS was identified as one of many programs slated to be completely cut, due to statewide budget shortfalls.
- Although the chancellor has recommended SLIS be cut, ultimately it is up to the Board of Supervisors, who are scheduled to meet on July 16, to explain what the budget plan is and decide what programs and schools will be cut. A 23% cut in state funds is coming/expected.
In response to the chancellor’s recommendation, a letter-writing campaign to show support for SLIS has been started. Support letters (more than 200 sent in a few weeks) have been garnered from faculty, alumni, and organizations such as MLA, AALL, ALISE, SLA. The ALA Committee on Education currently has a draft resolution for Council to pass at Annual to show ALA’s support for SLIS.
Beth shared many good points with the assembly as to why SLIS should be saved:
- LSU has the only ALA-accredited program in the state; if closed, students would be forced to enroll in out-of-state programs, costing them much more
- LSU SLIS is highly ranked, has a history of success (79.5 yrs); there are alumni in 49 states
- The need for graduates in LIS in Louisiana is increasing, especially due to the expansion of public libraries in the state
- Just under 5% of all graduate degrees from LSU come from SLIS
- SLIS is a cost-effective program, because it brings in both tuition and grant monies
- LSU published criteria for program eliminations, and SLIS does not fit the published criteria
- The closure of LSU SLIS would have a significant negative impact on the social, economic, and cultural well-being as well as the information literacy of Louisiana’s citizenry. Overall, there has been a lot of negative press seen in Louisiana lately—it was noted that the BP oil spill might have an impact on this, because tax revenue will go down if people are unable to work, etc.
- In times of crisis, LSU SLIS provided information access, particularly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; SLIS was awarded an IMLS grant to education 30 librarians to work in hurricane-devastated areas
There was a great deal of discussion during Q&A about what the next appropriate steps should be in terms of advocacy:
- Lobbying: Beth stated that the chancellor’s mind has been made up, but lobbying the Board of Supervisors might still be effective
- Press Coverage/In-Person Support: She stated that press coverage would also be useful, and the suggestion was made that perhaps a show of support in person at the Board of Supervisors meeting would have a big impact. Other SLIS deans and administrators, especially those in the SE, could travel to Louisiana to the Board meeting to show support for the SLIS program in person (ex. Clark Atlanta University), and perhaps draw some press attention in the process.
- Letters of support: Gathering these are still helpful– She stated that SLIS has been proactively trying to obtain support from alumni, current students, and other LIS educators through online petitions, letter-writing campaigns, etc.
- Additional Support: Obtaining support from people in other disciplines and industries would be helpful as well, because the Board is comprised mostly of business leaders, lawyers, etc., not academics.
- Awareness: This could have implications for any LIS program; everyone should be concerned about these cuts, as other campuses may see what others are doing and follow suit. Be proactive about involvement with the university, by doing things like joining with other departments, like Education (in LSU’s case, this was difficult because an interim Dean was not appointed)
*Beth reminded everyone again the next Board meeting would take place on July 16.
Meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.