Fine Arts community experiences growing pains

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The future of UT’s Fine Arts Library has come into question with recent layout changes and on-campus space constraints.

Over the last year, 75,000 Fine Arts Library books, music scores and periodicals were removed from the Fine Arts Library to off-campus storage. As a result, rumors about the closure of the library in the E. William Doty Fine Arts Building began circulating after the College of Fine Arts released a survey about the use of the library in early October.

Concerned students sent a petition against collection material removal with approximately 800 signatures to Douglas Dempster, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, last Monday. 

The closure reports were “greatly exaggerated,” and recent changes to the Fine Arts Library resulted from the needs of the college, said Dempster in a four-page letter to college members. 

“From correspondence I’ve received, it’s clear that some students and faculty believe that a decision has been made to ‘close the Fine Arts Library,’” Dempster said in an email. “The very suggestion is abhorrent. No such decision has been made nor should it.” 

The Fine Arts Library currently holds 200,000 items on campus, but 60 percent of collection materials have already been moved to storage facilities off-campus, according to a new Fine Arts Library Frequently Asked Question memo.

Music performance junior Justin Ochoa signed the petition, because he worries music scores will be removed from the Fine Arts Library to an off-campus storage facility. The off-campus materials can be retrieved and accessed by students within three business days, said Travis Willman, UT Libraries Communications Director. Students like Ochoa, however, say moving more materials to storage hurts students, who often need to explore music scores for classes or to plan performances. 

“I’ve been going to the Fine Arts Library since I was a freshman to just browse and I’ve learned a lot that way,” Ochoa said. “Taking the scores off-campus would discourage that.”

Ochoa also worries Dempster is focusing on introducing more to the college without preserving current resources.  

“They’ve been slowly moving away from a library towards a technology space,” said Ochoa. “Hearing about this is kind of heartbreaking.”

Over the summer, the fourth floor of the Fine Arts building, which housed books, periodicals and materials, was renovated into three classrooms and office spaces for new School of Design and Creative Technologies. A portion of the Fine Arts Library third floor was also transformed into the Foundry makerspace in the fall of 2016. 

With more students and decreased use of collection materials, Dempster said re-evaluating the current structure of the Fine Arts Library is necessary. Circulation of the on-campus Fine Arts materials dropped from 216,000 to less than 100,000, said Dempster.

Dempster announced the creation of two task forces to try to address the issue, but there is still no resolution timeline. The task force under the college will explore space possibilities within the Fine Arts building. 

The UT Libraries task force is working on finding alternative space for the library’s materials. Willman said the redevelopment of library spaces is normal.

“We do this with all the libraries,” Willman said. “We have to find ways to balance those physical materials that people need with the newer way of using resources, which is mostly digital and electronic.”

The Senate Fine Arts Council will host a town hall about the Fine Arts Library in November.