Richter Library reduces finals week hours amid UM budget cuts, students speak out

Richter library at the Coral Gables campus.

Following a series of budget cuts that have limited access to academic resources, frustrated students at the University of Miami are taking action after the Otto G. Richter Library’s hours of operation during finals week were reduced.

In addition to reducing database subscriptions and high-impact resources for students, a lack of funding to pay employees has led the library to reduce its hours of operation during finals week from 24 hours to 6 a.m. through 2 a.m..

At the beginning of the semester, a statement was published on the UM Libraries website detailing how the recent adjustment would impact collections funding, which is allocated toward student resources and the preservation of historic records at the library.

“Overall, our collections funding to meet that mission remains strong,” reads the statement. “However, a reduction to the Libraries’ operating budget requires us to strategically reduce and realign collections spending on the Coral Gables campus for the coming year.”

Skye Eppel, a senior double majoring in economics and global health studies, is a former employee of Otto G. Richter Library through Federal Work Study.

After four consecutive years of working at the library, Eppel was laid off at the beginning of last week due to the same budget cuts.

On Tuesday, Eppel received an email from a supervisor who announced the adjusted hours of operation. Upon learning of this change, she was furious.

“The school makes billions of dollars a year, and I think cutting these hours is kind of a slap in the face to the student body about where their tuition is really going,” Eppel said. “I think that a library is the most fundamental resource to any education, and for a University of this stature to have to deny students this resource is absolutely ridiculous.

For Eppel, it is the lack of educational resources that will greatly impact students who regularly utilize the library.

“Students, especially those who may not have another space to do work, rely on the library for several aspects of their education,” Eppel said. “The library provides desktop computers, whiteboards, study rooms, chargers, special programs and many more resources that could not be accessed without it.”

Eppel created a petition on Wednesday afternoon expressing her frustration with the announcement.

The petition included information about the budget cut as well as comments from a personal interview with Glen Wiley, the associate dean of access and discovery services at Richter Library.

Wiley, along with Jose Rodrigues, the director of access services and learning commons, are responsible for coordinating the budget for Richter Library.

During this interview, Wiley revealed that in June 2023, the University of Miami announced they would be cutting 10% of the entire UM Libraries budget and 50% of the student budget.

While budget cuts by the University have been gradually increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Wiley noted, this recent development appears to be the most substantial budget cut yet.

Upon signing the petition, several students expressed frustration with how administration is allocating the University budget.

“It’s like the administration is forgetting that the whole point of college is to learn,” senior biology and political science major Izzy Sowells said. “It seems as though despite being a tier-one research university, we seem to have forgotten our roots. This should never have even been on the table for an institution that prides itself on research.”

Lydia Buckius, a junior transfer student from Elon University, was surprised at the lack of support for students during an especially busy time of the semester.

“I’m disappointed because I’m a transfer student and my old institution’s library was open 24/7 and even had free snacks during finals,” Buckius said.

While several students are bearing the brunt of these recent budget cuts, faculty and staff members at the library have also expressed hope for change.

A full-time staff member at Otto G. Richter Library, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed their heartbreak for the students who rely on the library for their academic success.

“I struggle to find the words to express how much I would like the students to continue to have a great educational journey. It’s about the future and assisting the students to continue to reach their educational milestones in an efficient manner. And the manner in which we’ve always assisted should continue.”

Students and faculty can read and sign Eppel’s petition here.