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(letter to Faculty Council on loan periods)

March 21, 2000

Dear Professor Hilley:

Given the discussion of the past few weeks, I’m writing to you in my position as chair of the University Library Committee (ULC). I think that it is important for you and our colleagues on Faculty Council to understand the context, intention, and focus of the recommendations to Director Billings we adopted at our March 6, 2000 meeting.

The major changes to current policies were these:

  1. To end the use of paper mail for book renewals for faculty members and professional staff — instead we will have an interim period where paper reminders will ask borrowers to renew material either online or in person, moving in Spring 2001 to only email reminders.
  2. To increase the loan period for graduate students and classified staff members to one full semester, matching the loan period for faculty members and professional staff.

The recommendations had originated in a series of meetings of the circulation subcommittee of the ULC, made up of a faculty member and students with advice from General Libraries administrators. The two recommendations noted above, and the three others that accompanied them, were based on the deliberations of this subcommittee, the particular questions that the committee as a whole had referred to them, and a series of quite specific statistical analyses of borrowing, recall, and renewal patterns by several categories of patrons. These recommendations were adopted by consensus, with all members of the committee enthusiastically supporting them except for the two faculty members and one student who expressed reservations. Vance’s letter is a good representation of these reservations.

The ULC has devoted three full meetings and many online messages to discussion of library borrowing periods. All members of the committee have fully participated in those discussions as have the members of the subcommittee. We tried to be especially sensitive to dissenting opinions and to the effect of such changes on library staff and their workload.

The recommendations also reflect the concerns of VP and Dean of the Graduate School Terry Sullivan, who had asked us to increase the loan period for graduate students, especially those who had advanced to doctoral candidacy. It proved infeasible to limit such increases to only those students because of the University’s limited ability to identify them in a consistent way.

The ULC’s decisions were also based on work of the circulation subcommittee that compared our loan periods to those of many other universities that we consider our peers. Of those reported, the University of Michigan is the only one that differentiates significantly between faculty and graduate students without allowing graduate students at least three months loan. Other peer universities, however, allow graduate students either the same long loan privileges (equal to or greater than 3 months) of faculty members or virtually the same — these include UCLA, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Michigan State University, and UC-Berkeley.

The increase in loan periods for graduate students and classified staff is just good politics — it reaffirms graduate students’ status as fellow researchers, underscores the need for equity in important ways for all University constituents, and reinforces President Faulkner’s commitment to raise the compensation for these two important groups. The elimination of paper mail renewals supports the University’s evolution to digital communication as the medium of choice and decreases costs incurred by the General Libraries, with no significant loss to faculty members. The ULC also adopted the final recommendation of the loan subcommittee that a permanent subcommittee be appointed to examine these and other questions on an ongoing basis. As should be clear, the ULC made its recommendations only after considerable research, discussion, and debate. While the result was not unanimous, it reflects the strong feelings of the majority of the members of the committee, including faculty members, graduate students, and undergraduates. If you or any of our colleagues need any further information, I would be happy to provide it, whether in person or in writing. Thanks.