Off-site book storage on temporary hold

The long-term relocation of some materials at The D.B. Weldon Library to a storage and retrieval facility is on hold, following concerns from faculty members, President Alan Shepard told members of the Board of Governors Thursday.

About 45,000 Weldon materials at a preservation facility located at the University of Toronto’s Downsview Campus in North Toronto will not be processed until the title list is reviewed to ensure nothing rare or valuable is among them.

The library pushed the ‘pause’ button after concerns were raised at a Senate meeting that some materials were selected for moving that shouldn’t have been, the president said in his update to the Board.

Now, the Special Collections Librarian will work with faculty to identify whether some materials made their way to the list in error.

A $15-million upgrade is taking place at Weldon that will include more work-and-study spaces and a move of staff offices.

At the same time, the library identified materials that had not circulated in at least 10 years, moving about 175,000 items to a local storage facility and 45,000 to a print preservation facility shared among university libraries at Western, Toronto, Ottawa, McMaster and Queen’s.

But some faculty pushed back when they learned of the move.

English and Writing Studies professor Jane Toswell, who sits on both the Senate and Board, said faculty approach her daily with books they fear would otherwise be sent off campus. They include, she said, books donated as part of The John Davis Barnett Collection.

Law and Information and Media Studies professor Sam Trosow, also a member of both Senate and Board, said books rarely checked out shouldn’t necessarily be considered low-use materials, because, in his opinion, researchers often use them in the library.

Trosow said the library does need more usable spaces, but that shouldn’t take place at the expense of its holdings. He said the university wouldn’t enter science labs to remove materials and, “for people who work in the humanities, the library is their laboratory.”

Shepard said the matter has been the subject of “passionately held views” and added, “Weldon library is an incredible point of pride for Western and is considered one of the premier academic libraries in Canada.”

The Western Libraries Space Master Plan is a long-term roadmap to transform library spaces and facilities “for future needs, to adapt old spaces and create new ones where people can learn, research and collaborate.”