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March 21, 2018

Protests Mount Against Downsizing of University of Texas Fine Arts Library

AUSTIN, TEXAS—Following the December 2017 announcement of the continued downsizing of the University of Texas Fine Arts Library, the university’s faculty council has approved a resolution objecting to the College of Fine Arts’ plan. In 2016 and 2017, the university removed more than 75,000 volumes from the Fine Arts Library and decommissioned two of the library’s three floors, in part to create a maker space for the college’s School of Design and Creative Technologies. Much of the library’s collection has been sent to the Texas A&M library, more than 100 miles from Austin or, in the case of duplicates, destroyed.

In an uncharacteristically crowded meeting accompanied by student protests, the council cited a lack of consultation and communication, Melissa B. Taboada reports for the Austin American-Statesman. The faculty council also condemned any further dismantling of the Fine Arts Library as an obstacle to completing research and assignments.

On its website, the group Save UT Libraries wrote, “We recognize that allocations of space are necessary in a campus of this size. However, we adamantly oppose allocation that remove or encumber access to our most precious resources, which are the basis of our internationally renowned research and teaching excellence. The impact of this decision for our scholarship and teach for research, recruitment, and retention of top faculty and students is immeasurable.” Save UT Libraries has collected statements against the downsizing from faculties of UT-Austin’s art history department, theater and dance program, Butler School of Music, and the curators and staff of the Blanton Museum of Art, among others.

In a letter addressed to College of Fine Arts dean Douglas Dempster, Suzanne Preston Blier, College Art Association president and Harvard University Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African American Studies, wrote, “For faculty and students to be able to access books in our university libraries is critical to the work we do. New fields, including design, are vital too, but we must not foreclose one avenue of engagement (creative enlightenment through historic textual sources) with another. Design, technology, and the life of the mind are equally dependent on the kind of illustrations and ideas that only books provide. […] The University of Texas at Austin has long been viewed as one of the great university art history programs (part of an elite pantheon of these programs). I know personally several of the brilliant faculty members who are there. I hope that you will reconsider the decision to close the UT-Austin Fine Arts Library.” Preston Blier’s letter can be read in full here.

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