Castleton University students protest plans for library to go digital

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:06 PM EST
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Students at Castleton University are protesting plans to remove paper books from their library. Vermont State University administrators announced earlier this week that its libraries will go digital. Friday, students lined up to let leaders know they don’t like it.

“I think it’s a real shame that they were largely ignored and basically treated as if their responses didn’t matter,” said Quintin Demarsico, a junior at Castleton University.

“It’s genuinely making me question why I chose coming here,” said Emerson Jolliffe, a sophomore at Castleton University.

Castleton University students voiced their dismay after it was announced their campus library will shift online, eliminating seven full-time positions and three part-time ones.

“It was incredibly hard the other day to tell them that some of them, that they no longer have a job. It was heartbreaking. And it was not an easy thing to do,” said James Allen, the library director of the Vermont State College System.

Students and faculty were alerted by email Tuesday of plans to revamp Vermont State University’s entire library system, not just in Castleton but also at Johnson, Lyndon, Randolph and Williston, too.

As part of those changes, students will only be able to access many books, academic journals and other materials online.

“For a generation that’s told we waste our lives on screens, we’re really told to get back on them often and not given a chance to not be on screens. We don’t want to be on screens. We want to have that freedom to be away from it all,” said Jackson Aubuchon, a sophomore at Castleton.

“The circulation of library materials... have been going down since 1998. The fact of the matter is that more students are going to the library presumably to study is up by 15%. But the circulation of materials is down 70% and research questions are down by 84%,” Allen said.

Students say they’re disappointed and confused by the administration’s decision and although there was a survey sent out to gather reactions prior to the announcement, many felt they had little opportunity to weigh in.

“The survey, like I mentioned before, ran from the end of after Thanksgiving until the spring semester and it was actually a little over 500 students. It was sent to everyone had the opportunity to respond,” Allen said.

“If more than 500 students would have responded, maybe we would have made a different decision,” said Parwinder Grewal, the president of Vermont State University.

“I never noticed an email survey,” said Kendrick Madore, a sophomore at Castleton. “It’s ridiculous that they base their whole decision to remove most of the books from the library based off a survey of 500 people.”

School officials say they believe their message has been misconstrued and the decision is what’s best for the future of the university system.

“None of us here is saying we don’t like books or that that isn’t a rich part of our lives every single day. It absolutely is. So, we’re going to keep the library is the heart of the community on these campuses, but it’s not going to look exactly the same,” said Kelly Beckwith, the vice president for student success at VSU.

“I want you to know that we took very much that data that different voices that came to the table, the analysis that went into that, to come to a decision that was going to lead this university on a path of financial sustainability, " said Sarah Truckle, the vice president of business operations at VSU.

The library shift is set to take place by July 1. Administrators say most of the physical books and other materials will be donated and they plan to repurpose the spaces left behind.

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