Three of the largest libraries in the University of North Carolina system have cut hours and services because of the state budget crisis.
``We're really hurting,' said James F. Govan, librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill. ``In this library and others around the system, we are talking about desperate measures just to keep the doors open.'The cuts primarily are in effect late at night and early in the day on weekends, said librarians at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and UNC-Greensboro.
The reduced hours are among the most visible - and some would say painful - steps taken to date as administrators and faculty across the system have wrestled with budget cuts that average about 4.5 percent.
In addition to reduced library hours, the state's budget crisis has taken various other forms across the system.
Because teaching positions have been cut, classes have been eliminated on some campuses, forcing students to scramble to find replacements.
Some classes have been so crowded that students have had to sit on the floor.
While that may be the exception rather than the rule, almost every campus is reporting that class sizes have increased.
``We've not had to cut any courses, but our classes are much larger,' said Charles C. McIntyre, vice chancellor for business and finance at N.C. A&T State University. ``In fact, some of the classes that we normally teach at 25 are now somewhere around 45.'
Throughout the system, larger classes mean students receive less attention, and it means more work for faculty members, who typically are teaching more courses this year.
In some cases, they've even been acting as secretaries.
``One of the big problems in our department is that we have been without a secretary in one of our units for six months because of a hiring freeze,' said Robert C. Hansen, head of the communication and theater department at UNCG. ``Faculty have been doing a lot of their own typing.'
With or without secretaries, faculty have had to deal with cuts in the budgets for supplies, equipment and telephone service.
And state officials indicated last week that allocations to the campuses could be reduced even further.
``We feel like we are at rock bottom or below,' said Govan, the UNC-Chapel Hill librarian. ``I don't see how we can absorb much more without shutting.'
Even without more cuts, students at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State and UNCG clearly will see significant changes in library operations.
``Once you can get in the building, you are not going to be able to get all the services that had been available in the past,' said Charles Gilreath, assistant director for public services at N.C. State's library.
N.C. State has reduced library operating time by 12 1/2 hours a week, but hours that books can be checked out have been cut by 18 1/2 hours.
The two main libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill have cut operations by a total of 27 hours.
At UNCG, Jackson Library will be open 18 hours less than normal. Circulation desk hours also have been curtailed.
``We hope desperately that we don't have to do this very long,' said Doris D. Hulbert, director of Jackson Library. ``When we get in the busy period of October and November, we will have to do something. It will be untenable.'
Librarians blame a variety of budgetary woes for their problems. Some staff positions have been eliminated, others frozen, and funds to pay student workers won't keep up with increases in the minimum wage due this year.
Their problems - and those of others in the system - are compounded by the fact that the costs of books and periodicals are skyrocketing while supply budgets are being slashed.
Govan said UNC-Chapel Hill would buy only 35,000 books this year, compared with 90,000 in 1985.
``It looks like we are going down to 30,000 a year,' he said. ``That's not a reasonable level for even a mediocre research institution.'
Because books go out of print so quickly, librarians worry that those that aren't bought this year may not be available next, ``even if a sugar daddy gave us a lot of money,' said Suzanne Striedieck, a library official at N.C. State.
``The impact on collections and the lack of progress we are making on automation may have a very long-term impact. What is happening now is going to affect future students and researchers.'
That has more than librarians concerned.
``Faculty members are disturbed they can't carry on their research,' Govan said. ``Graduate students are very upset, and in fact a number of alumni have begun to worry about the standing of the institution.
``The library affects almost everyone. It's the nerve center, and if you cripple it, you diminish the quality everywhere.'
For the most part, though, students seem to have taken the reduced library hours in stride.
Some have wondered why the universities haven't cut hours at health centers or cafeterias or student unions. But campus officials point out that those services are supported by student fees, and libraries are almost entirely state-supported.
While libraries at smaller universities haven't yet cut hours, they're feeling the pinch in buying power and staffing needs.
``We are stretching our staff just as much as we can,' said Alene C. Young, director of library services at A&T.
Young said she'll need five more people when A&T occupies its new $15.4 million library next spring.