NYCT Library Responds to Extended Loan Proposal

Are CUNY library books more valuable in scholars’ hands? Or are books more valuable on library shelves? This debate rages among CUNY librarians in response to a MALS, DSC, and Graduate Council Library Committee proposal to extend CUNY book loan periods for all borrowers to match those at peer institutions.




NYCT CUNY Chief Librarian Darrow Wood opposes extended loan periods. He labels 120-day loans for faculty and grads “extreme” and fears that books on longer loan to CUNY scholars will prevent NYCT students from successfully browsing NYCT library shelves. Prof. Wood shared this statement widely last week. 

Statement on CUNY Libraries loan policies from the City Tech library faculty

City Tech loan periods are a function of our collection development and management responsibilities, themselves based on our undergraduate curriculum and the unpreparedness of many of our students. The vast majority of our students come from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds with little or no experience of academic libraries or libraries of any sort. As a result, discovery takes place primarily in the stacks, not in the library catalog. If a book isn’t on the shelf, a typical student will not know it is available at all, and therefore won’t recall it from the user who has it.

In light of these factors, at City Tech we allocate far more of our modest budget to purchasing printed books than do most CUNY colleges. Further, most of our purchases come from the textbook monies received from CUNY Central as an indirect result of undergraduate tuition increases. With regard to CUNY cross-campus sharing, also note that as electronic books are purchased locally, they cannot be shared between colleges. As a result we face a disproportionate burden – loaning out far more to other colleges than we borrow ourselves.

We support access to and use of our own collections via CUNY-wide practices which do not advantage graduate students at the cost of disadvantaging our associate and baccalaureate students. In other words, we do not believe graduate students objectively require or are entitled to privileged access to City Tech’s collections, which are built only in accord with the requirements and needs of own curriculum and students.

The City Tech library faculty acknowledges that other CUNY libraries represent interests unlike ours. We understand and accept that they do, but we are as supportive of the interests of our students as others are of theirs. On the question of loan periods we encourage a compromise which all CUNY libraries may freely and fully support.

About the Author

Prof. Polly Thistlethwaite is CUNY's Interim University Dean for Library Services.