By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA — Opposition to an administration plan to remove more than a third of the books in the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library has spread beyond the campus. Opponents now include alumni and a distinguished former faculty member.
The “weeding” project – which supporters call “deaccessioning” — seeks to rid the building of 172,161 of its 486,000 books by spring 2019, under a plan initiated by library dean Luis J. Gonzalez. That’s the equivalent of clearing out the second story of the four-floor facility.
On Nov. 15, former faculty member Charles D. Cashdollar, a retired IUP history professor and distinguished alumnus, addressed an eight-page, single-spaced letter to university President Michael A. Driscoll and Provost Timothy S. Moerland.
A whistleblower provided a copy to The HawkEye. On Dec. 1, Cashdollar confirmed authorship but declined comment in a brief phone interview.
The forceful letter described the weeding project as a “knife through the heart,” especially for the social sciences.
[Click on link to read the full text of the letter: Charles Cashdollar Letter 2017_11_30_23_10_38 (1) ]
“The stakes here are incredibly high,” wrote Cashdollar. “If we get this wrong, it will not be easy to fix later. Removing these books is like allowing a species to go extinct — once gone, virtually impossible to get back. If these books go out and we come to regret it (as we will), there is no chance we will ever find several millions of dollars to buy replacements.”
The letter called for a halt to the weeding process, alluding to dean Gonzalez.
“If we are not 100 percent sure the lone voice of one dean is right and everyone else is wrong — that the faculty in the humanities and social sciences are incompetent when they speak about their own disciplines –we had better slam on the brakes immediately,” he wrote.
The letter rebutted 10 “fallacies” of the Gonzalez plan, including, “The more libraries that hold the book, the less we need a copy,” “Borrowing is as good as owning,” and, “There will be no public relations and fundraising backlash to this.”
“So far, the complaining has been in-house, but I doubt you will be lucky enough to keep it there. Enough people are angry that someone will get in touch with the Chronicle of Higher Education or the Tribune-Review (which absolutely loves to do anti-IUP stories). Someone will get the attention of a television station or a talk show host or a reporter at the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia newspapers (the education reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer is on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, so getting her attention won’t be hard to do). We will be fortunate not to come out of this looking like the Taliban or Nazi book-burners — ‘170,000 books to be destroyed at IUP!’”
Cashdollar concluded with a plea for resolution.
“Given how much attention to the earlier chapters of my IUP history have given to the development of the library, I am at a complete loss as to how I am going to deal with this situation in the final chapter,” he wrote. “I truly hope it will be happily resolved before I get that far in the writing.”
DRISCOLL AND MOERLAND did not respond to a Dec. 2 email seeking reaction, nor did IUP Student Government Association President Brian H. Swatt, a supporter of the weeding plan. Nine department chairs and deans copied on the Cashdollar letter declined to respond to a Dec. 5 email seeking reaction.
IUP spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling responded on behalf of the university in a Dec. 2 email.
“We have received Dr. Cashdollar’s letter,” she wrote. “We support his right to express his opinion, and we respect and share his concern about a strong university and a strong and vital library.”
OTHER ALUMNI AND STAKEHOLDERS are sharing concerns about the library online. As of Dec. 7, more than 2,000 people have signed a Nov. 27 petition titled “Save IUP Library Books and Reference Materials.” The petition is intended for delivery to dean Gonzalez.
“It is understood that libraries have been changing since the eruption of the digital age, but this action seems like an overzealous response to fit with the times,” wrote the anonymous student who created the petition. “By signing this petition, you agree that this purging should come to a halt so that the community may converse more deeply, compromise and come to a conclusion that reflects all those impacted by this decision.”
The survey website includes comments of students, residents and alumni.
“This is a university library funded with public dollars,” wrote Dreama VanCise, of Indiana. “Private memorial donations make up the library. The university is entrusted to manage this resource in a respectful and comprehensive way. There is no indication that this decision was well considered.”
Other petitioners expressed anger.
“This is disgusting,” wrote Bethany McPherson, of Summerville, S.C. “As a former IUP student, I am especially upset. You are an institution of higher learning, so act like it and focus on education. Leave the library alone, or, better yet, buy more books!”
THE PROJECT HAS BEEN criticized by the veteran chairwoman of the library faculty. Susan Drummond has not been seen at her workplace since mid-October after going public with her objections that the plan was unilateral and impractical. Faculty union officials have been mum about the employment status of their former chapter president.
On Tuesday, a message on her office phone announced, “There is no mailbox for this number.” A staffer in the library administration office said, “Her mailbox is not set up.”
Asked whether Drummond was in the office, the woman said she wasn’t sure. Asked whether Drummond would be in to work the next day, the staffer offered, “You can call back tomorrow.”
Last month, the plan was endorsed by the Student Government Association on a divided vote.
It has riled faculty members, especially in the humanities.
An administration-appointed ad-hoc committee created to address criticism of the weeding plan met Dec. 6 for the second time since its creation. Its meetings are closed to the public, and media are “not invited,” said Driscoll during a Dec. 5 University Senate meeting.
Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu