By Guy Page
A Vermont Senate bill with tri-partisan support would prohibit the State of Vermont from closing or reducing in scope the services provided by state college libraries. And it would specifically prohibit converting libraries to an all-digital format.
The bill is part of the continued backlash against the proposed cost-saving plan by the Vermont State College Trustees to move college libraries to an all-digital, or at least more-digitial, format. Not unlike the pushback against S.5, the Affordable Heating Act, opposition has been broadbased and vocal. The trustees have since released a plan that would keep at least some of the books in the libraries.
Lead sponsor Brian Collamore (R-Rutland) said the bill is in draft form now but will be introduced soon. Castleton University, one of the state colleges, is located in his district.
A total of 15 senators – half of the Senate – have said they will sign on as sponsors. The composition of senators includes at least two members of the Senate Education Committee, and members of the Democratic, Republican and Progressive caucuses.
The bill would “prohibit the Vermont State Colleges from closing or reducing in size or scope the operation of the physical libraries on any of their campuses without legislative approval.
It would also prohibit the Vermont State Colleges from reducing the number of positions, employees, or employee hours assigned to the operation or support of their libraries below the numbers in effect on January 1, 2023 without legislative approval.”
Collamore said he is realistic that the bill will not be passed out of Senate Education before the Crossover deadline later today, Friday March 17. However, he said he hopes the bill will “poke” the Scott administration and the college trustees to recognize the benefit of having books in college libraries. Also, it’s possible the bill could be included in an education spending bill later in the session.
The Vermont State College system faces a severe funding deficit. But library supporters want the cuts, if any, to be found elsewhere.
As Senate Education this week sponsored a bill to spend $350,000 of Tourism and Marketing money to promote state colleges and hopefully attract young people to Vermont, critics of the library cuts say it sends the opposite message to prospective college students. Also, a possible conflict of interest has been alleged – the vice-chair of the Vermont State College trustee board is a senior executive in charge of educational technological transition with the multi-national consulting firm Deloitte.
A companion bill to Collamore’s will be introduced in the House of Representatives next week by Rep. Jarrod Sammis (R-Castleton).
“There’s such overwhelming support for the bill that we believe there should be a floor vote in the entire Senate,” VSEA lobbyist Vince Illuzzi said.