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Plan to merge Mathematics Library would hurt the UI

BY RICHARD BAKER and PALLE JORGENSEN - GUEST OPINION | NOVEMBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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We believe that the plan to “merge” the Mathematics Library constitutes the abolishment and dismantling of the Mathematics Library. We believe that the vast majority of UI faculty are opposed to the dismantling of the Mathematics Library.

The UI Mathematics Library is a historic institution and has been located in 125 MacLean Hall since 1936. The current budget crisis has caused University Librarian Nancy Baker to propose that the entire collection of books and journals in the Mathematics Library be moved to the shelves of the Main Library or moved to distant storage facilities. She has also proposed merging the Physics Library and Geoscience Library with the Biology Library. An independent delegation of mathematics, physics, and statistics professors has petitioned Provost Wallace Loh to find an alternative plan that would keep the Mathematics Library and Physics Library in their current locations. But to date, the provost continues to endorse Baker’s plan.

We believe that the Mathematics Department has the dual mission of mathematics teaching and mathematics research. It is nationally and internationally recognized that the existence of an in-house mathematics library is an internal strength of a mathematics department.

The Mathematics Library is at a central campus location that is easily accessible for all UI undergraduate and graduate students. The library is a hub of student activities, and it provides them with a stimulating and supportive environment for the study of mathematics. Working with the library assistant in the Mathematics Library, students can gain immediate access to all the mathematics material that is required for success in their mathematics and statistics courses. The Mathematics Library also provides students with a very quiet and effective study environment. We believe that the overwhelming majority of the undergraduate and graduate students at the UI strongly opposed the dismantling of the Mathematics Library.

The overall value of the in-house Mathematics Library to mathematical research at the UI is inestimable. We believe that its dismantling would hinder the mathematics department’s mission to produce excellent mathematical research across a broad spectrum of pure and applied fields. The dissolution of the Mathematics Library would also adversely affect at least the following aspects of mathematical research: the ability of the Mathematics Department to attract top graduate students, top faculty, postdoctoral fellows, National Science Foundation funding, and other external funding.

We believe that the in-house Mathematics Library is essential to the dual mission of mathematics teaching and mathematics research at the UI. We remain optimistic that an alternative, low-cost solution to this crisis can be found — a solution that involves no layoffs. We urge Provost Loh to review his approval and find a way to keep the Mathematics Library.

Richard Baker is a UI associate professor of mathematics, and Palle Jorgensen is a UI professor of mathematics. Their guest opinion is independent of any stated positions of UI officials.


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