Refined Plan for the Vermont State University Libraries 

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback following the earlier library announcement.  Based on the input provided and additional work to determine a way forward, we are contemplating the following modifications to the library operations plan that was communicated. 

  • In addition to the special collections and archives, we will maintain volumes that have been accessed or checked out between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2022 and have been deemed academically valuable by the academic department chairs and the Provost. Additional volumes, vital to academic programs, may also be retained based on academic need as determined by the Provost or his designee in coordination with the academic department chairs. 
  • We will maintain a small “Neighborhood Library” collection of popular, casual, reading books, as well as children’s books in the library with a “take-a-book, leave a book” honor system. These works will be available to all.  
  • In addition to the Liaison Librarian, a part-time professional library assistant will be available at Castleton, Johnson, Lyndon, and Randolph to coordinate reserve materials, a small academic collection, and schedule student workers to maintain existing open hours.  
  • We are investing approximately $500,000 in one-time funds to renovate and improve the library spaces across our campuses prior to the Fall semester. Priority will be given to investments that expand the usability of these spaces in the short-term. As part of our campus master planning work, we will be engaging with students, faculty, and staff to determine what these spaces will become in the coming years. 

As we work to implement the new model, there will be other opportunities to provide input and engage in envisioning the future.  To provide a clearer picture of where we are headed, the following is an updated summary of the proposed new library model. 

The New Library Model 

As we build Vermont State University to become a hybrid university, we need to transition our programs, student services, and supports to this new reality, while simultaneously working within smaller and financially sustainable budgets. This is true of the library, as it is central to the education and student learning expected at an institution like ours, but it also consumes significant financial and operational resources.  To do this requires difficult choices and compromises. Our objective is to ensure all students, across all campuses and locations across the state, and at out-of-state locations have equitable access to the library materials and services they need. This approach is consistent with the principles driving this transformation: student first, purpose first, and digital first.  

The resources and services included in this new model include the following: 

  • A new library website where scholarly and open-access databases, assistance, and services can be found and accessed (Mostly online and always open).
  • Frequently used physical books and materials, including an expanded digital collection and increased access to “open-access” digital resources in most disciplines. 
  • Reference services provided by librarians in person or virtually with help available 24/7 via chat. 
  • Library workshops will be offered both synchronously and asynchronously on a variety of subjects related to research.
  • Faculty engagement and support from liaison librarians aligned with the schools and departments. 
  • More places for students to gather to study, access printers, and collaborate in-person or virtually with students at other locations. 
  • Special collections, critical on-reserve resources, important archives, and popular, casual, reading books that serve the institution and the community. 

Transitioning from Physical Resources to Digital Resources 

Like researchers, publishers, and libraries across the globe, we are rapidly transitioning to a world dominated by digital information and resources, and we need students to have access to these up-to-date and accessible digital materials.  We will have a core set of licensed databases that will be augmented by freely available scholarly databases. Acquisition of new digital resources will utilize an “on-demand” model, ensuring that we only buy materials that will be used. 

Consistent with national trends, we have experienced a radical drop in the usage of physical resources on all our campuses. Based on our officially reported IPEDS data from 2014 to 2022, requests for physical materials and books have decreased by 83% to 91%, whereas requests for digital materials have increased by 328% to 3513% at our three institutions: Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College.

Out of our total library collection of 304,172 items at all campuses, only 3.94% (i.e., 11,975 items) were accessed in 2018-19 (pre-pandemic) and 1.82% (5,525 items) in 2021-22 (post-pandemic).  Also surprising is that over 58% of our total collection has never been accessed (checked out or used in the library) since its purchase, cataloguing and placement on our library stacks across all campuses.  Only 9.48% (28,849 items) of the collection has been accessed over the past five years.  Maintenance and circulation of physical resources consumes approximately 30% of the library budget, yet usage of the physical collection is less than 4% of the total annual usage volume. With the budget constraints we are under and the aspiration to meet the needs of all of our students—on campus and off campus—we need to make significant changes in how these financial resources are allocated. 

As we make this transition, we anticipate substantially reducing our physical collection at each location and eliminating our tracked circulation services, while simultaneously retaining access to reserves and special collections.  In addition, we will maintain volumes that have been accessed between January 2018 and December 2022 plus additional academically necessary volumes as directed by the provost in consultation with department chairs.  The items being removed will be available for faculty, students, and staff for personal use, and offered to other academic and community libraries. Unwanted volumes will be recycled. 

Modernizing Our Library Spaces 

While there will be fewer books and space dedicated to stacks, the library will still have books and the buildings themselves will remain open.  In addition to being places to access library resources and services, they will remain some of the most important spaces on campus for students to study, congregate, collaborate, and learn. 

As we transition our physical resources, our goal is for the library spaces to be usable and inviting to students when we open for the Fall 2023 semester.  Over the spring semester, we will engage with students for input on this short-term initial renovation. 

Over the coming year, we will also engage with students, faculty, and staff as part of a Facilities Master Plan planning initiative to determine what additional modifications and changes we can make to the library spaces to support the ways our students and communities collaborate and learn.  These plans will help guide our institution-wide capital investment priorities in the coming years. 

Moving Forward

As we begin to implement the transition to the new library model, there will be many opportunities for faculty, staff, and student to engage with the transformation. We look forward to speaking with you about your ideas as we move through this process. We know that many of you will have suggestions, questions, and concerns as we move through implementation and look forward to working with you.  Watch for additional opportunities to engage around this important change.

Frequently Asked Questions

(1.) When will the new digital academic library be launched?  

Our new digital academic library will launch with the fall 2023 semester.  

(2.) What will happen to library staff at the campus libraries?   

Full-time library positions related to circulation, and the acquisition and cataloging of materials, as well as most interlibrary loan functions will be eliminated.  In keeping with the reduced size of the physical collection, part-time assistant positions will be created at Castleton, Randolph, Johnson, and Lyndon to coordinate library operations including the hiring, training, and supervision of student workers, coordinating physical materials, and building access  Affected staff are encouraged to pursue other opportunities within Vermont State University and may do so in accordance with collective bargaining agreements and Vermont State University human resources procedures.  

(3.) What will happen to student workers in the libraries?

Vermont State University prides itself on offering high-quality student employment opportunities at each of our campuses.   Student workers currently employed by the library who will be returning next year will be offered employment in the library or another unit if the student continues to be work study eligible.   

(4.) How did Vermont State University make this decision?  

As part of the transformation work, a library sub-team completed discovery and design work.  Their designs for the website and the library service catalog included innovative changes to the services provided, including a new role of library liaisons to work with students and faculty, new open digital resources, access to resources 24/7/365, and library instruction delivered synchronously and asynchronously.  Many of the recommendations put forward by the team are being embraced in the new library model. They also proposed that the budget for materials shift primarily to e-resources and software and move to an on-demand acquisition model, to avoid buying resources that might never be used.

Student input, gathered from the Student Advisory Council and a small survey, supported the individual and group study spaces, access to technology and printers, personalized research help from librarians, and rapid access to the resources needed for coursework.

Many of the designs that transformation teams have shared with university leadership require more financial resources and not less.  As we grapple with aligning resources to transformation objectives, difficult choices need to be made. In this case, library resources and services that were most critical to support student learning and the future of the university were prioritized. 

(5.) Why did you decide to reduce the maintenance and circulation of physical resources?

Currently, over 30% of the total library budget is expended on managing and circulating all our 300,000 plus volumes.  Consistent with national trends, requests for physical materials and books from our libraries have plummeted over the past decade and more and more students and faculty are now requesting information digitally. Based on our officially reported IPEDS data, requests for physical materials and books have decreased by more than 83% between 2014 and 2022, whereas requests for digital materials have increased by well over 300% at our three institutions: Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College.

Out of our total library collection of 304,172 physical items at all campuses, only 3.94% (11,975 items) were accessed in 2018-19 (pre-pandemic) and 1.82% (5,525 items) in 2021-22 (post-pandemic).  What is most striking is the fact that 58.6% of our total collection (178,287 items) has never been accessed (checked out or used in the library) since it was purchased, catalogued, and placed on our library stacks across all campuses.  Only 9.48% (28,872 items) of the items from the total collection have been accessed at least once over the past five years. Furthermore, out of the total number of discipline-specific collections accessed since 2018 (24,480 items), only 231 were checked out between 5 and 10 times. Out of the total number of miscellaneous books, reference books, and archives accessed since 2018 (1,201 items) only 35 have been checked out between 5 and 10 times.

We further analyzed our collections use data to determine the most frequently used distinct collections by discipline, and this information will assist us as we work with faculty to determine materials retention at each campus.

(6.) How does the new library model meet equity standards?

No physical boundary: 24/7/365 access to help from our liaison librarians or a professional librarian through the SpringShare chat cooperative.

Round-the-clock availability: Digital library resources and services can be accessed anytime—24 hours a day and 365 days a year. 

Access Model: The same resources can be used by all Vermont State University users (Previously, Castleton and Vermont Technical College had access to more databases than the Northern Vermont University libraries).

Information retrieval: The Discovery Search (academic search engine on our website) will provide user-friendly interfaces, giving clickable access to resources paid for through online databases. Open-access articles are included in the platform. We will also embed a free third-party app called “Unpaywall” into Discovery Search, which provides access to many openly available articles (an open database of 46,145,476 free and legal articles).

Digital Equity: An online digital library will provide inclusive and equitable service to all students regardless of their location. 

Print Materials: Will be acquired as needed for learners who need materials in print.

(7.) How will the new library model meet accessibility standards?

One of the benefits of digital resources that our ADA coordinators have identified is that digital-format materials provide more universal access for individuals. This includes the ability to adjust font size and backgrounds for individuals with visual impairments, the ease of converting digital text to audio compared with print materials (which can be smudged or otherwise less readable by software), and the ability to annotate and otherwise manipulate digital texts to support cognitive processing.

For all students, digital articles may be printed out and read and portions of the content of eBooks can be printed out. Focusing on digital materials also allows us to provide higher-quality academic resources more quickly to students regardless of their location.  Students will have free access to more databases, scholarly articles, and general articles with the digital library, as compared to a physical library.

While we do not currently have any accommodations for physical materials, Vermont State University is committed to honoring the Americans with Disabilities Act by providing the accommodations necessary for documented disabilities as shared by the disability services team.

(8.) What about Internet accessibility?

Internet availability (“up time”) is measured and is up 99.999% of the time on the Vermont State University campuses. The most common reason for downtime is electricity power failures on individual campuses. We know there are some spaces on campus where the Wi-Fi is stronger than others, but the libraries are consistently a good place for students to be able to connect. Additionally, because the electronic resources are available “in the cloud” access to the digital resources is not limited by individual campus internet access.

(9.) What about students who face financial difficulties in accessing textbooks? Will reserve materials still be available?

Faculty may continue to place textbooks “on reserve” in the library and students will continue to have access to these materials. However, a key goal of Vermont State University is to increase affordability. Therefore, our liaison librarians will work with faculty to identify open educational resources for their courses that may replace high-cost textbooks and other required readings with no/low-cost materials to reduce the financial burden on students.

(10.) What will happen to popular reading books?

We will be implementing a self-service “take a book, leave a book” neighborhood library model to support popular reading.  This borrowing system will be in-house use only and based on the honor system.

(11.) How will I access research resources and materials?

Moving forward the library will be purchasing electronic books and materials based on an evidence-based acquisition model (EBA). This model supports purchase of materials that have been requested by faculty and students. This approach ensures that students and faculty have what they need while ensuring that the library budget is sustainable.  Discussions will be held with faculty to identify program-specific materials that need to be retained.

The research needs of students will continue to be supported as they always have been in a manner consistent with being “student-centered.” The library liaisons will offer in-person and virtual office hours to assist with library and research assistance. Additionally, they are developing programming through synchronous and asynchronous workshops and video tutorials to help students with research needs.

(12.) What do I do if I need a physical resource?

If the materials are available in a digital format it will be pursued first to allow the greatest possible access for all Vermont State University students. Only materials that are paper only will be considered for physical acquisitions. Special physical collections and frequently used books will remain at each library.

(13.) How can I request new resources?

Students and faculty may submit their requests electronically on the new library website after May 15, 2023.  

(14.) What will happen to special collections and library spaces named for donors?

Special Collections will continue to be kept at individual locations and we are working to designate individuals for the care and maintenance of these collections.  In cases where there is a building, space in the library, or a special collection supported by a donor or grant, Institutional Advancement will work with donors as needed to ensure that the future use of the space aligns with donor intent.

(15.) What will happen to interlibrary loans?

Interlibrary loans will be digital-only.

Available through interlibrary loan:

  • Book chapters
  • Journal, magazine, and newspaper articles
  • Conference proceedings

Not available through interlibrary loan:

Any physical materials, including, but not limited to, the following: Books, textbooks, media, multivolume sets, government documents, theses and dissertations, rare books, archival materials, microfilm/microfiche, and software.

If faculty or students request physical items, we will purchase a copy (rather than borrow one) if there is demonstrated need by faculty, staff, or students.

(16.) What about frequently used books that are not available as eBook and books that cannot be digitized?

Frequently used books, rare books, and essential books that cannot be digitized will remain at the locations.

(17.) How can we afford to digitize the whole library collection?

We are not digitizing our physical collection.  Nearly 60% of the books in our collection have not been accessed since 2002, and less than 10% have been accessed in the last five years. We already have significant digital collections and will acquire additional digital resources based on individual requests and in line with the needs of faculty and students.

(18.) What will happen to the physical library collection?

The Library Director in consultation with faculty and the provost will be assessing what will be kept and what will not.

Materials used between January 2018 and December 2022 will be automatically retained, assuming the volumes are academically necessary and cannot be purchased electronically.

Materials designated by the Provost, in conjunction with academic department chairs, will be retained.

Remaining materials in good condition will be offered to:

  • Full and Part-Time Faculty
  • Students
  • Staff
  • Academic and Community Libraries outside of the Vermont State Colleges
  • Community Members and Alumni

Any materials that are in poor condition, or unwanted will be recycled.

(19.) What digital library models did Vermont State look at as it designed its own?

Vermont State looked to several best-in-class digital libraries as it designed its own, including SUNY Empire State College, American Public University, Coastline College, Cornell University, University of Texas: San Antonio, and Florida Polytechnic University.

(20.) Libraries are social outlets for our students and community. How will they remain so?

The library spaces will remain open and allow for socialization among our student body in this post-Covid environment. The library locations will continue to welcome members of our local communities.