Student Speaks Up Against Closing of University Art Library

A petition, written in response to the closing of the University of Maryland Art Library, has received more than 1,300 signatures since its release in mid-September.

Dean of Libraries, Patricia Steele, announced the decision to close both the art and architecture libraries in June of this year while students and faculty remained in the dark.

Inspired by a petition and letter-writing campaign spearheaded by the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation that delayed the closure of the Architecture Library, Ph.D. candidate Nicole Riesenberger wrote her own petition.

Her goal is to get 2,000 signatures by Oct. 15, when Steele will meet with the Department of Art History and Architecture and the Department of Art, to discuss the future of the libraries.

Eric Bartheld, director of communications at the University of Maryland libraries, said the closing of the libraries was triggered in part by campus-wide budget cuts.

“But it’s not only about the money – it’s about finding a more efficient and workable model for libraries,” Bartheld said. “While they’re very valued, they’re also underused in relation to other libraries on campus.”

Riesenberger expressed concerns about accessing books if the library closes.

“It will become much more difficult for us to conduct research of the quality and quantity that we have in the past,” Riesenberger said. “We will have to schedule research time into our days rather than pop into the library between classes to grab a book or scan an article.”

Riesenberger also worries that the lack of an art library may reflect poorly on the art program. The College Art Association, the professional association for art scholars, lists whether or not a program has a dedicated art library, affecting the school’s national ranking, Riesenberger said.

“[Closing the library] sends the message that the University of Maryland is no longer dedicated to supporting the arts at Maryland – at the same time, that enormous STEM facility is being built up around us,” Riesenberger  said.

While a renewed working model for the library is still in the works, Bartheld is confident that the art library’s more than 100,000 volumes will be accessible to both students and faculty.

A team of representatives for both the libraries and the art department have considered moving the contents of the library to McKeldin, making the books accessible to students 24/7, as opposed to the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule the art library currently works under.

“The libraries support every academic discipline on campus. We are not abandoning art and architecture,” Bartheld said. “We are just looking for a different way to support them at a time when libraries and needs are changing.”

writersblocheadshots11Daphne Pellegrino is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at 

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