Emory Report
September 28, 2009
Volume 62, Number 5


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September 28, 2009
Emory Libraries redirect resources


The Emory University Libraries, which have gained renown in the past decade for their acquisition of prestigious literary, historical and cultural archives as well as their innovations in digital scholarship, have announced plans to cut some staff positions while redirecting operational budgets to meet rapidly growing technological requirements.

As part of the University’s overall response to the new economic realities, the Libraries are eliminating 29 positions — including six currently vacant — in order to close a $1 million shortfall for FY10. Overall, the Libraries’ budgets have been reduced by 4 percent, from $26.17 million to $25.13 million.

These reductions, affecting 27 employees (a combination of full-time and part-time positions), are based on elimination of work where job requirements have diminished or been consolidated, technology is being implemented, or cost effective alternatives have been identified.

“We are taking these painful steps with a sense of regret, but also with gratitude for the contributions of our departing colleagues,” says Rick Luce, vice provost and director. “With rapidly changing technologies in the world of information access, storage, dissemination, and publishing, we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we did not begin to re-direct operations and resources to meet the new demands of the 21st century research library.”

In-person use of the Libraries has remained relatively stable at about 182,000 visits in the past year, while the number of online article downloads increased by 76 percent from 2006 to 2009, and Emory’s digital collections logged about 2.6 million accesses last year, a figure that continues to grow rapidly.

The Libraries’ plans call for consolidation of service and reference desks, along with no overall decrease in the hours the doors are open to students, faculty and staff for study and research.

All affected library staff were offered severance packages based on their years of service, and Emory will pay COBRA health care premiums for six months for those employees who have Emory health care plans. Continuing appointment librarians have been given notice of non-renewal of their contracts, which run through August 2010. All affected employees are eligible for rehire and may apply for unemployment benefits.

Luce said the reductions in force were determined in consultation with his senior management team after studying a range of alternatives. Every unit within Emory has been mandated to reduce its costs in the wake of the world economic downturn last fall. At the same time, the University Libraries have faced a growing structural deficit, which until the past year could be largely balanced by a predictable degree of annual turnover in its workforce. During the past year the Libraries had already eliminated 7.5 vacant positions and curtailed new hiring, reduced travel costs, made significant collection acquisition cuts, and reduced expenses in a number of areas.

“The reductions were made with the goal of taking a strategic perspective while maintaining public services and balancing the reductions between staffing and collection acquisitions to minimize the impact on faculty and students,” says Luce. Efficiencies include centralizing support for branch services, consolidating service desks, downsizing the back office for collection acquisitions, and examining services that are redundant across several locations.

“I am grateful to Vice Provost Luce and his management team for making tough decisions to ensure that the library remains a vital hub of a vibrant research community, while also remaining mindful of the individuals who have faithfully worked at the library for years,” says Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “It is imperative for faculty and students at a top-tier university to be served by a top-tier library, and I am confident that will continue to be the case at Emory.”

In recent years, the Emory Libraries have been the center of international attention as luminaries such as Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker and Raymond Danowski, who built the 75,000-plus volume Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, chose to place their letters, manuscripts, archives, and — in some cases — computer hard drives with Emory. The Libraries have gained international recognition for significant new forms of digital scholarship and publishing, including the online journal of interdisciplinary studies “Southern Spaces” (www.southernspaces.org/) and an online database of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade “Voyages” (www.slavevoyages.org/tast/index.faces).

Luce said the Libraries will continue to place a high priority on acquisition of unique collections for MARBL — the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library — as well as the recruitment of a new director for MARBL.

The strategic plan remains focused on enhancing the Libraries’ special collections in modern literature and African American studies, digital technologies, and distinctive resources and services that empower students and scholars to pursue original scholarship.