Some books have been gathering dust on the shelves of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s libraries for quite some time.
“Forty-eight percent of the collection has not been checked out in the past 20 years,” said Michelle Fryling, IUP’s executive director of communications and media relations.
That means nearly half of the 486,000 books at Stapleton, Stabley and Orendorff Music libraries in Indiana and regional libraries at Punxsutawney and Northpointe haven’t been taken out since before the 2001 death of library namesake, longtime Council of Trustees president and state Sen. Patrick J. Stapleton Jr.
“Essentially, before the internet,” said IUP Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Timothy S. Moerland.
Since February of 2015, IUP has planned a “deaccession” process to remove up to 178,082 books.
“It is something all libraries need to do occasionally,” Moreland said Monday. “It is about professional management of the holdings, bringing the collection up to modern standards.”
Moerland said the focus is on books available digitally through at least five of the 13 other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities, and at least 10 academic libraries statewide.
“Academic libraries are changing from a paradigm of ownership to one of access,” IUP Dean of Libraries Luis J. Gonzalez said. “The (IUP) Libraries explored several ‘off-site’ storage alternatives before deciding to go with the deaccession choice.”
The project will take place in three phases, with the first to be completed next month, a second to take place in spring and perhaps summer next year, then a third during the 2018-19 academic year.
Meanwhile, Fryling said, Moerland is convening an ad hoc group during the spring semester to review the processes related to the project, that will include faculty leaders, administrators and one student.
IUP employs 15 faculty librarians, 17 other staffers and more than 150 student workers in its libraries. Moerland said deaccession will have no effect on jobs.
Deaccession has been discussed in several venues. At a recent meeting, IUP’s Student Government Association voted 12-5 to approve a resolution in support of the library project and how it is being done.
SGA expressed support for establishing more study space for students, but the provost stressed that deaccession “is not about creating space.”
At its conclusion, Fryling said, there will be a review “to determine the best configuration of space to meet the needs of our students and other library users.”
Deaccession also was a topic for the Academic Affairs Committee at the Sept. 7 IUP Council of Trustees meeting.
And at the October 2016 Pennsylvania Library Association conference at Kalahari Resort in the Poconos, IUP librarians Joann Janosko and Katherine Jenkins-Terpis helped conferees with “Scaling the Slopes” of a process “employing evidenced-based parameters to evaluate and target for retention, storage or deselection its circulating print book collections.”
Janosko’s 17-year career with the IUP libraries ended tragically, with her death in a May 1 car crash. On Aug. 1 Jenkins-Terpis left her role as an assistant dean of libraries to take a similar job at New Mexico State University. She referred inquiries about IUP to Fryling.
“This is an emotional issue for academics,” Moerland conceded. “I understand the emotion, but what we are doing here is sound practice.”
Each library has its own way of dealing with what it no longer needs, said Dustin Holland of Better World Books of Mishawaka, Ind., which will handle what IUP takes off its shelves.
“We still see a lot of libraries that throw those books out,” Holland said. “We’d rather keep the book in people’s hands than recycle it.”
Holland said BWB takes on tasks ranging from “a few hundred books to well over half a million a year,” processing “close to a million books” each week.
Holland could not talk about specifics of the IUP arrangement, but said his company has reused or recycled nearly 288.5 million books, donated 24.5 million and raised $26.466 million for literacy and library programs since it was launched in 2003.
BWB works with nearly 3,100 libraries and over 1,800 college campuses in the United States and Canada.
Fryling said IUP has used BWB before and expects minimal funding for books turned over in deaccession. Any funding would go to an IUP Foundation account for book purchases.
IUP could save money. Moerland did not have a specific figure but cited a consultant who said of another library that maintenance could cost as much as $4 per book per year.
In addition to books, IUP has more than 50,000 audiovisual items in various formats, as well as subscriptions to more than 63,000 journals and other serial publications.
One publication was spotlighted in a May 12 interview on C-SPAN.
In researching his “Rising Star, The Making of Barack Obama” biography of the former president, University of Pittsburgh professor David Garrow said he sought a copy of an advertisement Obama utilized in June 1985 for a job as a community organizer in Chicago.
Garrow told interviewer Brian Lamb that an online catalogue maintained by the Library of Congress showed “11 or 12 scattered U.S. institutions” once had copies of the paper known as “Community Jobs.” He said he made “five or six” calls to libraries that said they no longer had that publication — but then Garrow talked to Dr. Theresa McDevitt, IUP’s government information and outreach librarian.
“Lo and behold they hadn’t thrown it out,” Barrow is quoted in a C-SPAN transcript. “It is the only surviving copy. But I very much want to tell that story because historians like myself, we rely upon archivists and librarians. They are essential to producing factual documented footnote-rich history.”
Fryling said deaccession is focused only on hardback books and not newspapers or other items. Moerland said a presentation about the university’s archives is likely to be given to the Academic Affairs Committee when the trustees hold their next quarterly meeting on Dec. 14.
Elsewhere, PASSHE’s California University of Pennsylvania has an ongoing process involving what were 223,500 hard copies and 138,000 digital and electronic volumes as of June 30.
“We reevaluate our collection almost constantly,” said Dr. Douglas Hoover, Cal U’s dean of library services since 2001. “Libraries are an interesting creature. We constantly have to adapt to the needs of our students.”
Hoover said “a fair number” of books are recycled at Cal U but “there is no hard, fast rule” for a process driven by faculty and student needs.
“Certain collections change from time to time,” the Cal U library dean said. “We add and delete.”