Departments objecting to deacquisition in Mabee

Travis Perry

Dog-eared pages and scuffed bindings aren’t usually a hot topic for discussion, but when it comes to Mabee Library making space on its shelves, departments perk up and listen.

After ruffling some feathers in the history department, Mabee has some professors wondering if they are going to have much of a say in the types of materials students will be able to access.

Through a process known as deacquisitioning, the library systematically chooses texts based on condition, relevance and frequency of use to be either sent to another library or simply thrown out.

It’s a normal part of library collection maintenance, said David Feinmark, collection development coordinator for Mabee, and the process has been in place since the library setup shelves. However, with shrinking space and a demand for materials, something has to go.

“Typically the types of materials that go away are the ones that don’t get high demand from students,” said Alan Bearman, history professor, who has worked with Feinmark over the last three years as a liaison between Mabee and the history department for which materials they would like to keep.

Bearman said he has no problem with materials being deacquisitioned, as long as everyone was comfortable with what was being let go. However, not everyone is as pleased with how the department has been consulted.

“Anything we think that we want to keep we have to make an argument for,” said Tom Prasch, history department chair. “It’s been a frustrating process. However, it’s not entirely clear that we always see the books that are of interest to historians, and it’s not clear that we’re always consulted.”

This is in stark contrast to Feinmark, who stated in the process of working with the department, they agreed the final decision of all but about a dozen books. The goal that Prasch wanted to see out of the library is more notification of what texts were going to be let go. However, Feinmark thought otherwise.

“Being that it’s a normal part of operation, it gets to be somewhat problematic to call every member of [a department] because you’re withdrawing two books,” said Feinmark.

Even through a mass e-mailing process, Feinmark didn’t think it was absolutely necessary or even feasible at this time to alert or consult members of a department who might be affected by removing a specific text.

“At some point, somebody has to make a decision as to what’s eliminated and what stays,” said Gary Schmidt, interim dean of university libraries.

However, Prasch didn’t believe the librarians should have the final say over what books should be kept, and thought more academic oversight should be imposed by the people whom the removal would affect most.

“I’m not opposed to things being thrown away,” said Bearman. “Just make sure that we’re going in the same direction.