While university libraries have taken on numerous functions over the years, such as serving as places for students to study, meet with others, and interact with technology, one component that has always been central to their mission has been housing books.
But plans at the University of Denver to permanently move four-fifths of the Penrose Library’s holdings to an off-campus storage facility and renovate the building into an “Academic Commons,” with more seating, group space, and technological capacity, could make the university a flashpoint in the debate about whether the traditional function of storing books needs to happen on campus.
“We are not alone in this trend of increasing central campus space for study, services and student learning and decreasing central campus space for legacy collections,” said Nancy Allen, dean and director of Penrose Library, in an e-mail statement.
The proposed change has raised the ire of some arts, humanities, and social science professors who say that, while impressive, technology hasn’t yet replaced a good old-fashioned trip through the stacks. They argue that the administration dropped the changes in their laps without consulting them and that it will harm their main mode of research.
“You would never ask a scientist to get rid of his or her laboratory,” said Annabeth Headrick, an art history professor. “But that’s exactly what’s being done to us.”