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Engineering, Math and Physical Science Libraries at Cornell University

The Future of the Physical Sciences Library – FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is the Physical Sciences Library being affected?

A: The Library had to cut make major budget cuts this year — $1.7 million from the budget this year and a loss of another $1.3 million from its unrestricted reserve balances — and it’s no longer sustainable to have 20 physical locations on campus. Circulation figures, number of visitors and reference questions, and the availability of online access contributed to the decision to close this particular location.

Q: What do you mean when you say, “The library is being consolidated”?

A: We mean that although the doors of the Physical Sciences Library are closing, its resources will still be available in other parts of the library system.

Q: When will the doors actually close?

A: The end of 2009

Q: Who is on the transition team, and what will they do?

A: Faculty, staff, and students in chemistry, physics, astronomy, and applied and engineering physics will be on the team. They will help us address the issues related to study spaces, access to print collections, reserve materials, etc.

Q: How will I get books, journals, and other things that used to be available there?
A: The transition team will help us determine the best location for the print collections. Back issues of journals that are available online may go to the Annex. Books that are needed on central campus but aren’t available online may be shelved in other campus libraries.

Q: Will online access change?

A: No. The vast majority of the journal collection in the Physical Sciences Library is already available electronically, and we’re working to get even more online access to critical resources through enhanced electronic subscriptions and book digitization.

Q: What will happen to the space?
The future use of the space will be decided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, which is responsible for managing this Clark Hall area. In collaboration with the deans of Arts and Sciences and Engineering and the physical sciences departments, the vice provost will figure out how to use the space to best advance the educational and research mission of Cornell. Affordable proposals for accommodating instructional and study space needs of students will be very carefully considered, as will other proposals for possible educational and research usage.

Q: Why can’t you take money from other places and use it to keep the library open?

A: This was a difficult decision, and the budget situation means that all the libraries in Cornell’s system are taking a hit. But we believe we can serve the physical sciences community with a 24/7 portal for scholarly resources, a virtual collection and service through research specialists.

Q: Where can I find more updates?

A: The Physical Sciences Library blog:

Q: Whom can I talk to about this decision?

A: The transition team is open to all comments and suggestions. You can send an e-mail to or contact Janet McCue directly at

Q: What will the Physical Sciences Library look like in the future?

A: Input from everyone involved in the process will help shape this. Leah Solla, coordinator of the Physical Sciences Library, suggested the following scenario:

The Edna McConnell Clark Physical Sciences Virtual Library will provide 24/7 electronic access to scholarly literature and information sources in astronomy, chemistry, and physics for the Cornell community.  Print materials in these subject areas will be available at a number of Cornell libraryfacilities and through departmental delivery.  Subject librarians will remain on-site in the physicalsciences building area to provide services and support for faculty, staff and students, includingreference, consultation, and instruction.

This bold adjustment to the service model of the library is in response to changes in the research environment and scholarly communication in the physical sciences. It is a strategic move to repurpose resources and refocus efforts toward enhanced electronic collections and new services critical for the university to continue to be productive and competitive in scientific research. Because our budgets can not be increased to keep pace with increasing volume and costs of commercial scholarly materials, we have been severely cutting back the collections for over 10 years.

As a result, we are unable to provide the variety and depth of electronic resources needed by the physical sciences research community.  We need to be able to support the current and future needs of our users; as one new faculty member expressed recently, “It is really core when I can’t get an article I need for a grant!”

It remains the mission of the Physical Sciences Library to provide for the scholarly information needs of Cornell in chemistry, physics, and astronomy to the best of our ability. We will flex, reach out in many directions, and think well beyond the traditional branch library model as we reshape this library and its collections and services to support the evolving research environment of the 21st century.

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