Kresge, Paddock libraries to close permanently

by Abigail Mihaly | 2/16/21 6:22pm

fairchild_kresge
by Elizabeth Janowski / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Kresge Physical Sciences Library and Paddock Music Library will close permanently at the end of the academic year, Dartmouth announced on Tuesday. The College attributed the closures to decreased library lending numbers and budget cuts, both unrelated to the pandemic.

The libraries’ staff and high-use collection items will be relocated to the main Baker-Berry Library system, while all other resources will be housed off-site and available upon request. Though the College will no longer lend materials out of Kresge, it expects to reopen the library’s study spaces to students once the COVID-19 task force deems it safe to do so. It has not yet determined whether study spaces in Paddock will also reopen. 

Dean of libraries Sue Mehrer said that the College hopes all materials will be relocated by September. There are no current plans to permanently shutter any other Dartmouth libraries, Mehrer said.

Dartmouth’s libraries were forced to decrease their spending by $2 million over the five-year period between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2022 as a result of the College reallocating funds to academic programs and to counter its structural institutional deficit.

“Managing physical assets together is just an effective way of looking at allocating resources,” Mehrer said, noting that the libraries are continually examining trends in order to figure out how to best respond to the changing library landscape.

In addition to budget cuts, lending numbers have decreased. Overall circulation in the library system declined by 35% between 2008 and 2018, a trend Mehrer said many other academic libraries have also seen. Lending decreased by 73% at Paddock over the same 10-year period, though it saw a slight increase at Kresge during that period. However, in recent years, circulation has decreased at Kresge by roughly 12%. Associate librarian for digital strategies Daniel Chamberlain attributed the decline in circulation in part to a cultural shift trending toward digital resources.

“From a bigger cultural perspective, people often turn to electronic and online and digital resources — it’s at hand, it’s in your pocket often, and people are used to having that kind of quick access,” Chamberlain said.

No staff members will be laid off due to the consolidation. Chamberlain said that the library is pleased to retain staff expertise in specific subject areas, such as music and media specialists at Paddock, though he added that bringing all staff to Baker-Berry Library may mean changes in their jobs and possibly a “wider application of their skills.”

Both Kresge, located in Fairchild Physical Sciences Center, and Paddock, located in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, have been closed to visitors since March due to the pandemic. Feldberg Business and Engineering Library, which has relocated its resources to separate buildings at the Tuck School of Business and the Thayer School of Engineering due to construction on the west end of campus, is slated to reopen by this fall. 

Mehrer stressed that the announcement of the closures is “really the start of the planning” process. From here, library administration members will reach out to department chairs and faculty, the council of libraries and their student representatives and students, in order to “understand what is important to them.”

Chamberlain added that going forward, library administration will need to navigate a variety of challenges, including integrating staff into the Baker-Berry Library system and taking care of physical materials during and after their relocation.