Committee plans to reevaluate 1914

In strained financial times, the College has begun to evaluate and discuss many of the ways in which monetary concerns and issues affect life on campus. The 1914 Library is one component of this closer survey, as members of the administration have called for the formation of a committee to investigate issues pertaining specifically to the availability of books for financial aid students.

While the beginning-of-the-semester lines at the 1914 Library may be cumbersome, many students benefit from the opportunity to acquire all their semester reading material at little or no cost. “I’m fairly certain that Williams is unique in having a lending library to help ameliorate the cost of books for our financial aid students,” said Nancy Roseman, professor of biology and chair of the new committee.

According to Roseman, the 1914 Library faces an increasing strain. “Over the years, as book costs have increased and the total number of students on financial aid has increased, the existing model has become problematic,” she said. The 1914 Library operates in such a way that it does not directly buy books, but collects books through donations and student purchases using credit vouchers. The inability to expand and tailor its collections to anticipate student needs can have a negative impact. “At times, financial aid students are unable to obtain their books in a timely fashion, or perhaps unable to ever purchase or obtain their textbooks,” Roseman said.

For these reasons, the Provost – in consultation with the Advisory Group on Admissions and Financial Aid (AGAFA) – determined that these issues should be looked into in a formal fashion. The committee has representation from both financial aid and from the 1914 Library itself, as well as from faculty committees such as AGAFA, the Committee on Undergraduate Life (CUL) and the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC). The 1914 Committee also includes student representation.

Aside from examining the 1914 Library’s effectiveness at providing books to students in a timely manner, the committee will examine many other issues that have presented themselves in the course of the Library’s work. For instance, the 1914 Library requires that books be returned at the end of each semester, as is inherent in any library system. This poses a problem, however, for those students who then lose the ability to refer to old textbooks as they continue in their fields of study. “This could be an issue in many areas, but particularly in Division III,” Roseman said. “Do students want to keep their books? If so, how can we financially structure that?”

The committee will examine questions such as, “How does not owning a book, or not being able to annotate [a book], impact learning?” “How can the 1914 Library handle the lending of textbooks bundled with CDs that have passwords, making reuse impossible?” “Is there a way to insure that the 1914 Library can provide up-to-date editions of needed textbooks?” In essence, the committee will ask whether the existing library can be made more efficient, and whether there may be other, potentially better, options for assuring that all students have the textbooks they need.

After considering these questions, the mission of the committee will be to determine the best way for the 1914 Library to move forward. Roseman said that the committee was charged with the task of “generating a number of models, each with different financial costs,” so that a decision about the best structure for the 1914 Library can then be made by senior staff. According to committee member Paul Boyer, director of Financial Aid, the committee should have more concrete answers to many of the pertinent questions after spring break. The committee hopes to finish its work by the end of this semester.