Here is a writeup about the library layoffs that happened last week at Stanford. The Miller Library did not lose any permanent staff, but it did give up its entire budget for hiring students for shelving, projects, etc.
Hopkins Marine Station
News from the
Welcome to ReMix, News for Library Donors and Friends
June 19, 2009, Issue No. 17
In a little over a century, libraries at Stanford have survived earthquakes, floods, relocations, effects of depression and wartime, campus unrest, and other disturbances. To this litany, we add another blow: on 10 June 2009, 32 SULAIR staff – representing hundreds of years of service and every level and division – learned their jobs are vanishing. Thanks to a hiring freeze, 26 other positions had been left unfilled and have now been eliminated. Six surviving positions have been reduced in hours. In all, 64 positions were affected. We have truly been decimated: more than one of us in ten is hors de combat. The official account is posted at the Stanford News Service.
This layoff, if not its details or extent, was anticipated for months; the university began warning of budget cuts for the 2010 budget year in November. As the campus budget news became more dire through the winter and into the spring, library directors had to revisit the layoff plan several times to accommodate progressively severe reductions. Many efforts were made to limit the number of layoffs, starting with the hiring freeze. Every other budget area was also cut: services, hours, repairs, publications, facilities, etc. are reduced to survival levels. Even the once-sacrosanct library materials budget has been trimmed, a decision sure to be controversial. Those “unaffected” by the layoffs will find their work more demanding than ever; the loss of institutional memory is profound. Our near-term challenge is to reconsider and revamp our services, operations, and reader expectations to match our means, and, in so doing, hope for creative solutions and outcomes.
This raises afresh the question of what is a library. It reminds us that, besides the buildings and collections, a library is a community, in our case comprising staff, students, faculty, other researchers, alumni, and friends. That community persists, of course, but it is wounded. SULAIR will survive this too, but not soon, and not without lasting effect. Please join me in wishing us all well, particularly those being put out of work, but also those who soldier on and those who depend on the work we do.