The Brainiacs at Vermont State U Continue Their Brilliant Handling of the Library Closure Plan

So remember when Vermont State University rid itself of its inconvenient president and announced it was putting a hold on the plan to close the system’s libraries?

All good, then?


Well, the library plan is on hold, but layoffs of library staff are still going ahead.

So reports Sophia Buckley-Clement of the Rutland Herald/Times Argus, who writes that the word came in a delightfully roundabout way: over the weekend from a lawyer for the university system following an inquiry from the Vermont State Employees Association. I guess a Friday newsdump was just too much exposure for them.

For those keeping score at home, VSU began by announcing library closures… then they said there would still be “libraries” but they’d be, in the words of the Monty Python cheese sketch, unencumbered by books… then they said there’d be quite a few books actually, chosen by a process that seemed awfully tedious and unworkable…. and then they gave Grewal the ziggy and said all decisions were on hold…

… and they are, except for the fate of the library staff.

There’s a sliver of doubt on whether all eight employees will get the ziggy, but layoff notices already issued to three of them have not been rescinded. Actually, there’s more than a sliver of doubt about every aspect of this mess, considering the following heap of word salad from system Chancellor Sophie Zdatny.

“There’s been a lot of ongoing conversations with faculty and also with the library’s transformation team, so those plans have been evolving. But what the staffing will be for those plans, and again there’s a question of whether that’s the plan that moving forward, but then also what the staffing needs (are) around those particular plans, that’s all to be determined.”

Good Lord in Heaven. The cashiering of Parwinder Grewal hasn’t made any difference in administrative clarity or public relations savvy, has it?

Zdatny seems to be leaving the door open to retaining library staff, but the available details strongly suggest otherwise. The three staffers who’ve been notified of their layoffs are still being encouraged to seek other jobs within the system. Given the vast clouds of uncertainty — and the incapability of the administration to adopt a clear plan and communicate it professionally — I don’t know why any of the eight would be content to sit around and hope they’d still have a job on July 1.

I mean, best case is that the libraries will stay open for at least a little while but with no longer-term certainty and with a critical shortage of staff. Would you stick around if you had any options?

So this is where we are now. There is no current plan to close or transform the libraries or to get rid of some or most or all of the books, but aspects of the plan are moving ahead out of (a) sheer unchecked momentum and (b) the short time remaining before the closure/unclosure/maybe closure plan is to take effect.

Beyond that, who knows. The VSU administration certainly isn’t telling us.


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