What is happening in the library?


Chris Weber

A long row of empty bookshelves in the GSU library wait for removal.

Librarians and staff in the GSU library are unhappy with recent changes made by Interim Dean Dennis Swanson.

Swanson, who technically is not an employee of GSU, says that the changes are part of an effort to update the library.

Shelves are empty in a large portion of the GSU library. The books, on their way to a different life, are in massive unorganized piles hidden from the view of everyone except the staff members who have to process them for removal. After they are taken out of the system, they will be used somewhere else, thrown away, or recycled.

Books piled up in the back of the library will be processed and removed. (Chris Weber)

Librarians at the GSU library say that Swanson did not let them choose which books were removed from every section. They have no way of knowing if any of the books in the piles would be useful for students.

Swanson says that the books he removed were purchased as a group from a different library that was updating its collection. He claims that most of the books had not been checked out by students in a long time. Swanson removed books from the shelves himself if they fell into his area of expertise and had a retiring faculty member help with the process as well.

According to Swanson, a grant was awarded to GSU for new books. Some librarians are worried that they may be buying some of the same books that are being thrown away.

Swanson said he has plans to renovate and rebuild the library completely. Though the funds have not been secured for his plans, he is updating the current library as he sees fit. In addition to new books that will take the place of some of the old ones, his plans include renovating the current office spaces and adding offices in a part of the library that formerly contained shelves and books.

Swanson also has added exercise bikes in the main library space. This is an outside-of-the-box idea that caught at least some of the librarians off guard.

GSU librarians also brought attention to recent issues surrounding the US Government Document System. This system keeps records at libraries around the country so citizens can access important information. It also serves to protect documents that are essential to democracy by spreading multiple copies across the country.

A report and subsequent resignation from Josh Sopiarz as the Government Documents librarian prompted an investigation from the Government Publishing Office on Oct. 3. Swanson, who now is also the Interim Government Documents Librarian, says that this issue has been cleared up completely and was never really an issue at all. Swanson also stated that all of the government records at GSU would be kept online from now on.

In a letter accompanied by petitions, GSU-UPI Grievance officer and Associate Professor of History Ellie Walsh wrote: “We are concerned that what has happened—and continues to happen—in the library is tarnishing GSU’s reputation not only with the GPO and the larger university library community, but also with our students, staff, faculty, and the broader GSU community. The 371 petition cards we deliver with this letter attest to the concern of our community. We hope you share that concern and emphasize our willingness to work with you to redeem and enhance GSU’s reputation by dealing quickly and fairly with the library issues.”

GSU began searching for a new dean of the library in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic and following labor shortages resulted in few qualified applicants being interviewed. Swanson, who is a contracted employee hired through a company called Registry, has served in similar library dean positions.

Swanson did not say if he had applied for the Dean of the Library position when it was originally posted but some of the librarians stated that he did not possess the educational requirements for the job. GSU does not currently have a job opening for a library dean posted on its website.

According to sources, GSU Provost Beverly Schneller has announced that the search for a permanent Dean of the Library will resume soon. The GSU librarians hope that they have an active role in the hiring process.

A recent announcement from the GSU administration highlights a focus on campus renovations that include a new library. The Phoenix has asked for comments from President Green and Provost Schneller, but has not received a response yet.