Randy, yes, I understand about weeding. (Btw I am a 1985 graduate of the University of Illinois School of Library and Information Science.) We're talking about something radically different here, as you'd probably agree.
My little university got rid of most of its reference collection, and, for our users, there was no need to keep some of those books -- old agricultural annuals and so on. But they got rid of their sets of the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and Book Review Digest. Just this year the absence of the former made it harder to pursue an inquiry of mine. (I mentioned it here, the search for an article from around 1975 about publishers using cheaper bindings of books.) The university here didn't have those volumes and did not subscribe to the "historical New York Times index" we eventually needed to check. So I emailed several other universities. The main research library in the state still did have the Reader's Guide in book form, and I urged the librarian to keep them... at last what I thought for a while was THE article was found. Turns out it can't have been, but that's another story.
But anyway... you mention the claim about "study space." I can't speak for other libraries, but I know for certain that at the university here, with thousands of books from the stacks and the reference collection, & the periodical archive, gone... what we now have might as well be regarded as a storage area for unused chairs and tables. Over 95% of the available space, I would sincerely estimate, is not used at any given time. There is less reason than ever for students to come to the library, so the library's user statistics have probably fallen through the basement. This is not, of course, entirely the library's fault. The teachers evidently do not assign library work. (When I taught English there, I used to wonder how many assigned papers, whether using online sources or library materials.)
As regards the local university library, there's also the fact that the administration made them "find room" so that space could be carved out for office(s) for one of the academic divisions.
In short the library is physically smaller, it has fewer paper resources, and it is used much less than it formerly was. Sad.