Retirement lowers full-time librarian count to five

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Chemistry sophomore Ernesto Alva and engineering sophomore Natalya Casas ask Librarian Tom Bahlinger about reserving a study room Monday on the second floor of Moody. When Bahlinger started working at the library 15 years ago, there were 11 full-time librarians on staff. By Jan. 9, the full-time staff will be cut to five.  Neven Jones

Chemistry sophomore Ernesto Alva and engineering sophomore Natalya Casas ask Librarian Tom Bahlinger about reserving a study room Monday on the second floor of Moody. When Bahlinger started working at the library 15 years ago, there were 11 full-time librarians on staff. By Jan. 9, the full-time staff will be cut to five. Neven Jones

Databases and purchasing power affected by budget cuts.

By Jennifer M. Ytuarte

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

From the 30 faculty and seven staff members at this college accepting a retirement incentive offered in the spring, library services will lose three full-time librarians.

Library Director Alice Johnson said Librarian Tom Kuykendall, who accepted Option 1 and retired this summer, was supposed to be replaced Aug. 31, but the full-time staff allotment went to the nursing department instead.

By Jan. 9, Bob Singh and Karen Balcom also will retire.

This will whittle  the full-time faculty to five — Celita DeArmond, Eileen Oliver, Tom Bahlinger, Stephen Dingman and Christina Petimezas.

These librarians will be replaced with one full-time and one part-time staff member.

New hires are classified as staff, not faculty as former librarians have been, earn a lower pay rate and do not qualify for tenure.

Johnson said she hopes there will be enough budget left to hire one more part-time position, but the district must approve the request.

Oliver said this college hired a temporary staff librarian last year to help with the shortage and a second started Sept. 8.

Both part-time positions are for 19 hours a week.

The library remodel added a service desk on the fourth floor, which Oliver said stretches staff to its limits.

“There’s a lot of pulling people out from what they should be doing to man the reference desks,” she said. “Everyone wants to make it work and we are all cooperative, but it does make staffing difficult.”

The fourth floor, which houses a special collection, out-of-print items, rare books and study rooms, is open 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Hours will extend to 4 p.m. as soon as work-study students are available.

The second and third floors are open 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. The library is closed Sunday.

Oliver said the department requested eight to 10 work-study students this semester to help fill the staffing gap.

Johnson said although the work-study students’ skills are limited, they are critical to the department by cleaning, shelving books and reserving study rooms.

DeArmond, reference and distance librarian, said, “We are a commuter college with online support through LibGuides and ‘Ask a Librarian!’ Even with hours rolled back over the last few years, students know where to find us.

“Librarians are the technology forefront, constantly adapting new technology to make information easier to access,” DeArmond said. “We’ve learned to stretch ourselves and keep the student interaction portion solid, but then behind the scenes things get dropped and we fall behind.”

She said the college no longer has a systems librarian, who maintains the databases, server and archives.

Oliver said the office of technology services has taken over some database maintenance, and the library catalog is now hosted remotely by Innovative instead of onsite and under the care of a systems librarian.

Three databases and 16 percent of the book-purchasing budget were also on the chopping block.

Bahlinger, reference librarian and collection manager, said the department’s budget decreased by $46,000 this year.

He canceled three yearly database subscriptions saving $26,225 and decreased the print purchase budget by 16 percent.

The databases and annual cost of each are: Safari tech books online, $11,525; America: History and Life, $10,900; and MLA: International Bibliography, $3,800.

Bahlinger said the 2011 budget roughly cut $40,000 from services and the 2012 budget cut $38,000.

However, during the 2012-13 fiscal year, a budget increase restored a NewsBank subscription and added to JSTOR access, he said.

“What’s frustrating is the (Quality Enhancement Plan) at this college is making information literacy a focus, and to cut our services seems unwise,” he said.

During his 15 years working at this college, Bahlinger said the number of librarians has decreased from 12 or 13 to five as of Jan. 9, with no new faculty or staff hires.

“It’s one thing to cut services, like access to books and databases; hopefully, we will rebound from that,” he said.

“But what’s disappointing is losing so many librarians and staff and not seeing any resolution.”

For research-related questions, call the reference desk at 210-486-0554.

For information about textbooks on reserve, call the reserve desk at 210-486-0582.

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