George Mason Law School

Budget cut a problem for Swem

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September 28, 2007

3:38 AM

p. The state budget cuts and the minimum wage hike have caused several problems at Swem Library, including the abandonment of longer hours and a hiring freeze.

p. Dean of University Libraries Connie McCarthy said that the budget problems will not affect current hours and that no employees will be let go.

p. McCarthy said that the recent priorities of the library were to extend hours during the week. This was accomplished several years ago when the weekday closing time was changed.

p. “We have run comparisons with our peer schools and it was data such as this that helped us make the case to expand regular hours to 2 a.m.,” she said. “Previously we closed at midnight, only extending hours during exam time. With that regular increase of 10 hours, that brought us more in line with other libraries.”

p. During the hours of midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, two campus police officers patrol the building. The extra 10 hours per week costs about $13,500 per year, according to McCarthy.

p. A study performed by The Flat Hat found that when Swem’s weekly hours were compared with the nation’s top schools and other public Virginia universities, the hours were approximately the same. Swem is open 103 hours per week. Some of the nation’s top schools — Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Stanford, University of California – Los Angeles, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale — averaged 104.8 hours per week. The public Virginia universities examined — the University of Virginia, George Mason University, James Madison University, Mary Washington University, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Military Institute — averaged 104.3 hours per week.

p. However, when the hours of the College’s peer schools, as determined by U.S. News & World Report rankings, were examined, the average number of hours per week at Brandeis University, Lehigh University, New York University and the University of Rochester averaged 109.8 hours per week — almost seven hours more per week than Swem.

p. Prior to the budget cuts, Swem had been planning on extending its weekday hours.

p. “The second priority — we heard this not only from students but from graduate students and faculty — is to open later [on] Friday and Saturday nights and certainly Sunday,” McCarthy said. “We always had crowds ready to get in at 1 [p.m. on Sundays] and people want to get in earlier than 1 p.m. So that still is something we want to be able to do, but given the budget crunch and the frozen positions, we’re not able to do it right now.”

p. Had the extended hours been enacted, Swem would have been open 112 hours per week, more hours than most of the universities examined.

p. The recent minimum wage increase has also affected the library budget. Currently $5.85 per hour, the minimum wage will increase within the next two years to $7.25.

p.“What [the minimum wage increase] means is that we are able to hire fewer students or students are able to work fewer hours,” McCarthy said. “So far that hasn’t impacted our hours, but it has impacted the number of students we’re able to hire.”

p. McCarthy said that she hopes to have an increase in funding that will allow her to begin filling vacant positions and extending library hours further within the next few years.

p. “I’m not sure I would call [the current hours] satisfactory,” she said.

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