“Although they may have been deemed useless or not fitting the library’s collection, somebody’s trash is someone else’s treasure”
In the last edition of The Pine Needle, Dean of Library Services Dennis Swanson sat down with student journalists Abaigeal Brown and Mason Miller to discuss the discarding of library resources.
Once the article was published, faculty and staff presented The Pine Needle with more accurate information.
Staff and faculty felt their voices were not accurately represented in the article as well as in the process of deselecting books and other library materials at Mary Livermore.
An anonymous source who once worked closely with the university challenged Swanson’s previous statements about the true number of books that have been discarded.
“With the total number of books, 125,000 needs to be added to that 25,000. He mentions DC gave him permission to the library to recycle books. He is confusing books with government documents. DC mandates government documents. The removal of books was his own personal decision,” the source said.
According to a data request made by The Pine Needle, the official number of titles held during the 2016-2017 academic year was 496,561.
A further breakdown of this data concludes that the number of books circulated that year was 10,226 - alongside 15,759 audiovisual/media materials and 29,119 media used for streaming media curricular.
Comparative to the 2017 fiscal year, the total number of physical titles held dropped to 309,000.
Dr. Robert Canida who has a masters degree in library sciences and is President of Friends of the Library, an organization centered around supporting the library and other university-related educational resources on campus, believes the removal of library materials has been concerning.
“Having hold faculty tenure in the library, I understand the library and I’m a librarian by degree - there’s a process by which most libraries go by to deselect or weed their collection. The library most likely could have used a weeding of some sort, most libraries do,” Canida said. “But to that degree and that amount of weeding of materials, that troubles me as a librarian then also as a representative for the [Friends of the Library] knowing that those are items that are no longer going to be available to our students, faculty, staff and community.”
Some members in the local community expressed their concerns not only with how the library discarded books, but also the removal of computer and other technological resources on the first floor of Mary Livermore.
Computers were originally available on the first floor as a reference guide to locate the library’s books as well as other electronic resources. Since then, these computers have since been removed.
“As FOL president, it concerns me that there are no computer stations for community to use and I understand this is not a community library, but we serve the community. I mean that’s part of our DNA for this university; it’s [Mary Livermore Library] here in the community of Pembroke therefore we have more resources than the public library so I think we should provide as much as possible to the needs of our community,” Canida said.
“So there’s no computers for community use as of now and even with our students there’s only maybe 20-25 computers in the computer lab for research and we have 7,000 students. I’m not familiar with any academic library that has a reference area but no computers for students to do research,” he stated.
Currently, anyone who is searching for a specific book in the Mary Livermore Library has to track down a member of the library staff and have them search the title on their reference computers.Members of the community as well as some faculty have been unsure if recycling the deselected books was the most reasonable course of action to follow through the weeding process.
“The dumpsters that everyone saw in the back of the library that books were being put in, items like that could have been used possibly by some faculty who do a lot of service learning and supporting their home countries,” Canida said. “Dr. Cliff Mensa, a professor in economics, every year he goes home to Ghana and he could have taken some of those items. If they are going to the recycle bin why not offer them to someone who could possibly use them? Although they may have been deemed useless or not fitting the libraries collection, somebody’s trash is someone else’s treasure.”
Faculty and staff alike expressed deep concern that they had not been adequately warned about the books which were to be discarded. According to an email chain received by The Pine Needle, Dr. Swanson emailed all of UNC Pembroke’s department chairs a spreadsheet of film titles labeled “curricular support” that would be discarded, most of which had not been checked out in over two years according to Swanson.
The email chain begins on August 14, a week before the beginning of the fall semester stating the removal of 2,793 films from the library’s collection.
The Provost was also present in the email chain.
One professor even went so far as to question the method(s) that were used to determine which film and books hadn’t been checked out in a number of years. Stating that a film present on the list had in fact been checked out within the past two years. Numerous professors and faculty have questioned the methods Swanson used to determine which books would get discarded.
“You can’t just decide to put stuff in the garbage because you’re not using it anymore,” American Indian Studies Department chair Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs said.
“I have learned not to go over to the library to find a video on my own, but to ask ahead - at least a week ahead of when I need it. I used to be able to go and just get a video off the shelf myself,” Dr.Jacobs continued.
In addition to the controversial discussion amongst the university community, other members in the local community have expressed their concern.
“After my visits to the Mary Livermore Library, its not as welcoming as once before. The children’s books which were available for families to browse through have been relocated to another area on campus that is not open to the community; the removal of the computer resources on the lower level which were used by not only the community, but faculty, staff, students and alumni; No access to copiers which were used by the community and school teachers late at night to make copies and plan for their next day/week work,” one unnamed source said.
“The dean is not open or receptive to the rich history of this community and is not making any effort to communicate with the community. In his efforts to make changes, he has removed historical books that pertain to the community especially the government documents along with the microfiche readers and the microfiche. These are or were vital commodities that were utilized in the community and surrounding communities,” the source continued.