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UT Austin Threatens to Dismantle Its Fine Arts Library

The University of Texas at Austin recently announced that, under Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, it has and will move tens of thousands of fine art books, collection materials, periodicals, and music scores from UT Fine Arts Library, or FAL, into off-site warehouse space, in order to update the library’s use to better “meet the demands of these students and faculty,” as “Circulation has crashed.”

According to the Daily Texan, “Sixty percent of collection materials have already been moved to storage facilities off-campus, according to an October FAL memo. The materials can be retrieved within three business days upon request.”

The Dallas Morning News reports: “Now 200,000 more items may be forced from the fifth floor of the E. William Doty Building into remote, inhospitable circumstances to make room for the new School of Design and Creative Technologies.”

There’s been an uproar about this matter by students, faculty, and alumni who have loved and used the library over the years. A UT Alumni letter that went out on December 15 states:

“As alumni of the Department of Art and Art History in UT-Austin’s College of Fine Arts, we were exceedingly concerned to read Lee Cullum’s recent article in the Dallas Morning News about the proposal to move books out of the Fine Arts Library to make room for new academic programs. We cannot speak to the efficacy of such new programs—either for or against them—but we believe the gutting of physical resources from the library to be a short-sighted and ultimately harmful prospect.

The proposed solution of a ‘bookless’ library would undermine the rigor and innovation that is at the foundation of a Tier-1 research University like UT-Austin.”

While digital access and “automated retrieval and distribution systems” will help people track down content of some of the off-site materials, not all of it has been digitized. In November, there was a town-hall meeting attended by many who oppose the move of the materials.

For more on this, please go here, here, and here.

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3 Responses

  1. UT Austin’s decimation of its fine arts library is not only short-sighted and cumbersome (it takes not 3 days but 7, to get a book from the Pickle offsite storage), it is also ass-backwards. UT Dallas, the sister school up north, which invested in art & technology way before UT did, has recognized the irreplaceable value of material culture for the arts by investing in a 400,000 volume “old fashioned” art library from Paris. Books and archives will be digitized AND made readily available in a new privately funded museum/library on the Dallas campus to be called the W. Ray Wallace Athenaeum. UT Austin, either get with the times or send your ace art historians to Dallas!

  2. Ginny Camfield

    My art historian husband found even the cataloging of art books on computer instead of cards hampered real research by his students. He regularly sent them to the stacks to see what else was there, and it was often a revelation to them, and improved their research skills. That art library is still on the shelves, but other books from the greater library are now off campus. They can be retrieved same day by the students – I don’t know how that’s working. But the ability to prowl through books on shelves is seriously more productive and more interesting. Not all progress is progress!!

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