There’s so much to talk about in this article on the University of Denver’s plan to move most of the books out of its library as part of a renovation of that facility. Certainly, I’m a big fan of books, and think they’re going to stick around for a long time. I’m also a big fan of renovating libraries, as they just did that to ours last week and it looks absolutely wonderful. No books were moved to storage in that process because, frankly, we never had all that many books here in the first place. That’s why I’m also a big fan of digital humanities projects that let me see more tomes from the privacy of my office.
What I want to focus on is the governance issue:
While many faculty members agree that the library needs to be renovated, they say administrators left them out of the process and that the provost presented the decision to them last week as a “done deal.”
“We should have been presented with the plan, asked to have a discussion and weigh in on our feelings about it before anything was finalized,” said Dean Saitta, chairman of the anthropology department and president of Denver’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Denver’s spokeswoman said the university’s administration consulted with the faculty in formal and informal ways throughout the process.
I know Dean really well and I can guarantee you that if he says the administration didn’t consult with faculty, then the administration didn’t consult with faculty. Perhaps they thought they were consulting with the faculty, telling a few people in the Faculty Senate or something like that. But when you’re making a decision as vital as this to the academic mission of an institution as to the purpose of its library, you have to go above and beyond the call of duty.
The University of Denver is small enough that they could have gone all Greek city state, and really gotten feedback from everyone whose life depends upon that building. Even if they didn’t take faculty suggestions, faculty would have appreciated having input on something that important. I know plenty of faculty input went into the remodeling of our library. Instead, they sprung on most faculty members and now they’re going to be really, really surly for a long time.
You be the judge: Which is better for the institution, more space inside the library or a hostile workforce? Shared governance, as Dean lays it out above, would have been the best strategy for everyone involved. Too bad the University of Denver prefers the Banana Republic model.