January 12, 2006
On the Current (and Future) State of the Tulane Law Library
One has to read through some 23 paragraphs of Shiny Happy People text in Jodi S. Cohen's Back to books in the bayou article published in yesterday's Chicago Tribune before coming across the following:
Among Tulane's losses are some 1,000 employees, about half of whom were laid off while the rest didn't return. What's more, university officials last month announced plans for the largest reinvention of the college in history, the full effects of which won't be known for years.
The graduate school lost several PhD programs, the medical school lost 180 doctors, the engineering school lost several majors, the athletic department lost eight teams, and the now-merged Newcomb College lost its all-female identity.
Frankly, I would expect more from the Chicago Tribune's higher education reporter because the real story lies is the issues surrounding this so-called "reinvention" of Tulane. See the University's plans.
First, we need to find answers to this question: Is the University restructuring mostly Katrina-related? Partially Katrina-related? "Vaguely" Katrine-related? Or is the University using "Katrina" to implement goals and plans that otherwise would have been difficult to execute without having a convenient excuse?
Second, what will the impact of this restructuring be on the quality of education offered by the University once this "reinvention" is complete? "Why, excellent of course!"
Third, what are the consequences to the University's workforce?
Relative to the consequences to the Law Library staff, here is what one person posted on a library listserv yesterday:
I just got off the phone with a friend from Tulane (who was in tears) and [the] news is true. I believe that 9 people were fired from the law library and 12 are left. It is definitely a campus-wide situation and many from Tulane's main library have been fired also. People are scrambling to get health insurance and make other important life decisions. They have been told that all non-essential personnel are being fired; length of service has nothing to do with the decision! How sad for us all.
Non-essential. Pleading poverty. This situation just does not pass my smell test.
The Law Library Before Katrina
The Law Library lost its director in 2004. The committee, under the recommendation of one of its members, the University Librarian, declared its search a failure and appointed said University Librarian to run the operations of the Law Library, removing the law library's then-Head of Public Services as acting director.
The University Librarian's management has not been pro forma--leaving the law library to be run by the law librarians--but rather he has taken the opportunity to institute many changes. Morale at the law library has been very low, which is very well known. All this was before Katrina.
Immediately before Katrina, the Law Library had extended an job offer to a new head of access services, which it then withdrew. It has since eliminated every department head, to wit: it now lacks its Director, Head of Public Services, Head of Access Services, and Head of Technical Services. There appears to be no commitment to fill any of these positions. Moreover, the University Librarian has decided to outsource all binding operations for all libraries (hence the firing of all those personnel), and there is talk about merging the cataloging and technical services.
So my question is do the actions at Tulane reasonably represent a sub rasa determination by relevant powers to subsume the law library into the operations of the University library, demoting it from an independent entity and transforming it into a subordinated department? The recent spate of firings looks to be designed to preshape the structure of the law library for insertion into the main library's organization.
I believe this matter requires investigation by AALL with or without but hopefully with the cooperation of AALS. Don't you?
Editor's Note: Thanks to Anon.
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applications to the law school are up by double digits, the University retained just over 90% of its students and is planning on reducing class size next year so that the calibre of students does not decline. A lot of the changes that the administration has pushed through have been talked about for decades now and I think its clear that the hurricane was used as an excuse for some much needed reform. Merging Newcomb with the the University has been talked about since at least the 1970's! I personally think the administration has done an amazing job, these were all very necessary changes. The hurricane got a lot of the politics out of the way and that is honestly a good thing.
Posted by: Michael S. | Feb 9, 2006 5:33:44 PM
As the deputy dean of Tulane Law School, I have to add to this conversation. The information posted here about the Tulane Law School library, which came from a questionable source at a highly emotional time, is in many respects inaccurate and in most respects very misleading. It would require a book to explain the truth about the transition the law library has been going through over the past couple of years, after more than three decades with the same structure and director, a process greatly complicated by Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath. Some senior position titles have been changed, but the jobs are still there and are occupied because the library has been restructured so that new supervisory positions (with new titles) now oversee all of the various functions. It is simply not close to being true that 9 people were fired from the library post-Katrina -- two were fired for cause pre-Katrina (and these positions will be refilled) and three positions that were not mission-critical were eliminated as a result of the storm. The search for a new director will be renewed next year. The University Librarian has done a fantastic job of helping us navigate the law library through this unimaginably difficult period, with the involvement of the senior law library staff. But he is anxious to return to his duties full-time in the main library, and it is simply wrong and irresponsible for anyone to suggest that he is attempting some type of coup to take over the law library. And as for the endowment of the University, 95% of it is restricted to generating income that can only be spent for specific designated purposes. A university cannot lawfully spend its restricted endowment on operating expenses or repairing hurricane damage. Restructuring and downsizing were essential if Tulane is maintain its position as a preeminent institution of higher learning. It's discouraging after all we at Tulane have been through the past five months to get the university and law school back and running as a viable and excellent institution, after suffering from the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, then to have people damage us more with inaccurate and misleading claims.
Editors note: My source was hardly emotional, but I can excuse Dean Robert's ad hominem argument because I would like to invite the dean to write his "book" about the truth right here on this blog. - Joe Hodnicki
Posted by: Gary Roberts | Jan 17, 2006 12:31:30 PM
This at a university with hundreds of millions of dollars in its endowment. I don't pretend to understand the archania that is university administration, but what's the point of having a fat endowment if you won't/can't tap it to prevent/lessen the disintegration of the university?
Posted by: Keith Rowley | Jan 13, 2006 1:21:05 PM
I see from the ABA website that Tulane is up for its sabbatical accreditation visit in 2008-2009. A lot of damage can be done in three years.
At #41 in the U.S. News ranking, Tulane has a long, long way to fall.
Posted by: Jim Milles | Jan 12, 2006 10:38:14 AM