A cut in MCCC’s library hours is hurting students in a variety of ways, according to faculty and students.
MCCC imposed a $3,600 cut on the library’s operational budget, as part of campus-wide cuts to balance the college budget.
The library chose to close for four hours on Thursday evenings, beginning at 4:30 p.m., to accomplish the savings.
The change has left some faculty and students with concerns about the impact those four hours are going to have on them.
“As the semester progresses, this could become a big problem,” said Terri Telfer, an English professor. “We’ll survive, but I don’t think that’s the case for some of the other classes.”
The college administration asked department managers to cut 3-5 percent from their academic budget requests for the 2012/2013 academic year. The cuts partly stem from a decline in local tax money because of our strained economy.
For Barbara McNamee, the director of Learning Resources, this was not an easy decision. She knew that wherever she made the cut, it was going to have an impact on someone, she said.
To assist her in making the decision, McNamee referred to data that the library had collected over a period of about five years.
“Every single day and every hour on the hour, my staff does a head count of students resourcing the library,” McNamee said.
The data showed that the number of students utilizing the library on Thursday evenings was consistently lower than every other day of the week for the last three years.
“Thursday just kind of looked like it would be the best evening,” McNamee said. “We were thinking in terms of where’s the least impact, from the data we had, to meet the needs of our faculty and students.”
McNamee said an email was sent to all students, faculty, and support staff to let them know about the change in the library hours. In the email, she said the library will survey faculty and students by mid-semester to determine the impact of the cuts.
The Humanities/Social Science Division often rotates schedules from one semester to the next. This semester, many of these courses meet on Thursday evenings.
McNamee said she was unaware there were so many Thursday evening classes this semester.
“I do have some concern because these courses have very library rich instruction that depends on the libraries resources,” Barbara said. “I am willing to work with the faculty to find a solution so that class could have that instruction.”
Some faculty members came to McNamee with their concerns, not only for their students, but for all of the student body.
Cheryl Johnston, assistant professor of Reading and English, went to McNamee representing her colleagues in the Social Science and Humanities Division.
Johnston said she thought that taking such a big block of time away without making the faculty a part of the conversation was unfair.
“Change is only going to be made possible when people are really made aware of how a situation is going to impact them,” Johnston said. “When you make these types of decisions, hopefully you are taking all of these factors into consideration.”
Johnston had particular concern for students who can only attend college in the evening.
“If you’re a night student, that’s because it is the only time that you have available,” she said. “We should have support for our night students.”
Most of the students that are enrolled in Johnston’s evening classes are night students.
“Night students pay the same tuition as everyone else, and we should be providing them with the same support.”
Johnston incorporates the library into her classes, having class discussions about the art exhibits, using the computers, and accessing the large collection of juvenile books.
Johnston played a significant role in building the collection of books over the years, so her students would have access to these materials.
“I want students to be able to research things here, conveniently,” Johnston said. “That is why we’ve built this collection.”
Some of the books were chosen to correlate with the textbooks in her Children’s Literature class, Tuesday and Thursday evenings this semester.
“If we don’t have access to that collection,” Cheryl said. “It is definitely a big blow.”
Cheryl said she never received an e-mail regarding the new library hours, but thinks that the survey McNamee plans is a wonderful idea.
“It’s probably a step in the right direction,” Johnston said. “I’m definitely happy to hear that they are going to be interested in input from instructors.”
Telfer teaches on Thursday evenings as well. He said he’s concerned that the library already isn’t accessible enough for students as it is; now, it’s losing an additional four hours.
“It is wrong,” Telfer said.
He said he wondered why the library wouldn’t make the cuts in other ways, rather than a way that could be detrimental to a student’s academic career.
“The library is the basis of education,” Telfer said.
The cuts came as a last minute surprise to him.
“We did not know that this was coming,” he said.
The library also houses a large inventory of books that Telfer has reserved for his classes as well. He said his student’s haven’t really been affected yet, because it’s so early in the semester, but he isn’t sure about a week or two down the road.
The biggest problem, he said, is that while the cuts are being made, a multimillion dollar building is being built on campus.
“This building is not our greatest need,” Telfer said. “We have a much greater need for classrooms and computers, actually a desperate need for computers.”
Students who might not be able to afford a computer, or may not have access to one, is a concern, Telfer said.
“The library could be providing them that, if it were actually open,” he said.
Terri struggles with what he is supposed to tell his students.
“Am I supposed to tell them that we have a computer lab, but you can’t use it?” Terri said.
“I guess I would just like to know how it came to this.”
One student found out about the library’s new hours the hard way.
As a full-time student at MCCC, 18-year-old Fiona Flynn also works a full-time job. She commutes a 45-minute drive to and from school four days a week and can only attend classes in the evening.
Flynn said that every one of her classes is affected by the library closing at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
She goes to the library before her first class to work on her homework in all of her classes because it’s the only time she has.
“The one class that has been affected the most is my Math 090 class,” Flynn said. “The homework is so demanding, and you can easily fall behind and never be able to catch up.”
Before she knew that the library was now closing at 4:30, she decided to leave work early on Thursday, Sept. 13th, to utilize that time to go to the library to catch up on her math homework.
She arrived a few minutes after 4:30 and headed toward the library, only to discover that it was closed.
“I had no idea that they were closed,” she said. “I was not able to do any of my homework for my class and will now have to figure out sometime during the weekend to even be able to work on it.”
If Flynn is able to complete her Math 090 class this semester, she would be able to start on the Math 151 course and possibly finish both classes in one semester.
“By losing that one day a week to do my homework in the library, I feel that my course will now have to be completed in two semesters,” Flynn said. “This is such a huge blow to me…and to my goals.”
Even though the 3-5% cut was mandatory, the input McNamee said she receives from students and faculty can assist in possibly finding a way to make the cuts hurt less. After all, the library is the heart of the campus, she said.
“I really want to emphasize that I am completely aware of how serious this situation is,” McNamee said.
She is intent on getting the survey out to the faculty and students by mid-semester.
If the survey comes back and it points toward a better solution, McNamee said she will work with that.