Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
Nestled on the top floor of the Performing Arts Center, the Music Library has functioned as a sanctuary for students for over 40 years. The library, while modest in size, is anchored by lofty shelves lined with scores and LPs bearing the famous names of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Puccini. And rather than the warm hums of a computer, gentle melodies of concertos are heard from headphones of students sitting in listening stations.
While most students’ knowledge of it doesn’t surpass the occasional glance up at the brightly lit windows when passing through the pavilion, the music library has garnered recent attention as a possible victim of recent budget cuts. As the result of university-wide cuts, the Music Library, along with the Huxley College Map Library, are being considered to merge into the Wilson Library.
In an online statement released by Dean of Libraries Chris Cox on Sept. 29, there were four reasons behind the proposal: it would save money; the materials would be more accessible with longer hours in Wilson and would allow the libraries to preserve the essential operations. The lack of attendance in the Music Library, approximately 3 persons an hour, is another factor.
Senior Jessica Curry, a vocal performance major, has assisted in organizing the student group Save the WWU Music Library, whose Facebook group has assembled over 700 supporters.
“It’s more than just a library, it’s a museum. These are not just books that people wrote, these are scores that people have composed that are being performed around the world,” Curry said. “Each one of these scores and books are a little bit of precious history. We can’t have that be taken away from us.”
Curry said the issue of moving the library goes beyond music majors having to walk across the street. There is no clear plan concerning where the materials would be moved, and given the collection’s size it would most likely be dispersed throughout Wilson Library, causing more inconveniences to music students, Curry said. Moving the library would also create a conflict surrounding the seminar room, a classroom inside the library which holds upper-division and graduate classes.
“We’re not trying to be angry, we’re not trying to be hostile,” Curry said. “We just want our voices heard and that this music library is important to us and we need to keep it.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Catherine Riordan, said decisions about budget cuts are never easy ones.
“The university has a priority that we are giving to our core mission where students are getting access to classes, so that puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the budget to make some pretty deep cuts in other areas,” she said.
According to Riordan, a budget has already been turned in and signed off by the board, and now the issue lies in deciding where the reduction will be and the impact it will have on students. For the library alone, the board must come up with $160,000 in cuts. By moving the Music Library, Riordan said that the university would save anywhere from $100,000 to $140,000.
“The library is one of those areas that even though it is very valuable and supportive towards our key mission, they are trying to figure out how to make their cuts and what their options are,” she said.
One option they’ve considered, Riordan said, would be to cut acquisitions, or items the library purchases. These could include books and other print materials, electronic databases and online journals. Another option is cutting back library hours, specifically on Saturdays, the slowest day of the week.
For sophomore Veronica Jensen, there cannot be a price put on the Music Library. A vocal performance major like Curry, she said it will be the staff cuts that will affect her more than anything.
“Most of the people in the administration and working in the main library don’t have an idea of what our life is like as a music student,” she said. “[The Music Librarian’s] knowledge of this material is so essential to our education here. Earlier I said, ‘Oh I’m looking for a Horn piece by Beethoven.’ He said, ‘Opus 17.’ That could have taken a reference librarian 10 minutes to find and then take you to the section. Losing someone like him will make our education suffer.”
Riordan said it would be in the hopes of the administration that they could keep a full-time, seasoned music librarian with the move.
“We made the budget cuts so quickly we didn’t have time to engage the music faculty and students as much as we would have liked,” Riordan said.
More than 150 music students assembled in the hallway of Old Main following the news, outside the meeting where the proposal was discussed. The students were offered a reprieve and needed to come together to propose a five-year sustainable plan.
Currently there is a committee facilitated by Dean Brian Burton, which includes people from all different departments of Western looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.
Riordan said on Nov. 10 the committee will make a presentation to the University Planning and Resources Council on their preliminary plan for the cuts, and on Nov. 19 they will submit a final recommendation. At that time Riordan will submit her recommendation to the president, who has the ultimate decision.
“We’re looking at what’s equitable for this campus,” she said. “We’re cutting into quality now, a lot of high quality things like the Music Library.”
Curry is currently working with students to collection signatures on a petition protesting the move. Although she is a senior, she is heading the fight for the music students to come.
“The whole core of our music department revolves around a multi-faceted learning program where we aren’t just reading a book but we are looking at a score, listening to it, having a book with research on top of that,” Curry said. “All of these things we have to be able to do on a daily basis in order to succeed and to become successful musicians. I truly believe if these resources and this space are taken away from us, we will not have the same success.”