Demands, budget shut down department

By Rob Heselbarth

Phasing out the Department of Library and Information Studies has brought out different reactions from different people.

NIU President John La Tourette, back from his vacation in France, said phasing out the department was not something he wanted to do.

“If we had the resources we would definitely continue it,” La Tourette said. “(The phasing out) is a combination of an unreasonable set of demands and a bad budget situation.”

The demands La Tourette is referring to come from the American Library Association’s Committee for Accreditation (ALACA).

Prudence Dalrymple, director of the ALA’s Office for Accreditation, said the demands resulted from the last ALACA’s site visit to NIU in 1989.

“The reason a university program goes through accreditation is to protect the public interest—in this case, the students—and so students who are currently enrolled are provided a quality education,” Dalrymple said.

La Tourette said the limited budget prohibits NIU from meeting the demands.

“We have to reduce the things we’ve been doing before, so we can concentrate on limited missions and the quality of programs in the future,” La Tourette said.

“(For NIU) the closing of the department is not only a cost saving but cost avoiding,” he said. “We would have to put more money into the program if we met the ALA’s demands. We have saved one position for now and probably will save more for the future.”

James Lankford, dean of the College of Professional Studies, said it is difficult to say right now how much money will be saved.

“We will have to maintain the faculty for the next two years,” Lankford said. “After that, we will redistribute them to other departments. The closing will also leave one faculty position open.”

La Tourette said there are other specialized areas open. “We’re dealing with a restricted budget without laying off and firing people.”

Deanne Holzberlein, associate professor in Library and Information Studies, agreed there are other places they can go.

“We can serve in the Founder Library, but that’s a problem because they have a budget, too,” Holzberlein said.

“NIU is careful and not all big schools are,” she said. “NIU really means it when they say they will take care of its employees.”

Lankford said he is “really saddened” by the closing. “It has been a good program, and the faculty has done an excellent job. We’ve used their faculty as examples for other NIU departments to follow.”

Laura Smith, graduate student in the Department of Library and Information Studies, said NIU could have tried to keep the department running.

“If the administration really felt the program was important and valid they would find a way to keep it going,” Smith said.

“Rosary College and the U of I in Champaign will be the only two universities left in Illinois that will have the program,” she added.