Is it time to bury the rag deep in your face? Can’t tell.

Remember I posted about the library at my old school dumping books? Well I’ve just learned that my new school, one of the standard bearers for American liberal arts education, is moving truckloads of books out of the library to a building with no climate control situated two miles from the library and called “the pit,” and installing, in place of shelves, a café. Does that not sum up everything wrong with everything these days? No we don’t have your book; would you like a scone and a latte?

On the bright side, I remain delighted at the fact that there exists somewhere near here – because I see their ads on TV – a large casino called “Morongo.”

Later:  I asked the president of the College about the library situation.  He really did understand.  He said:  I know.  But the students don’t come to the library.  We are trying to get them to come.  We don’t even know if it will work.  Later I told Z.  His response was:  If you replaced all the shelving with trampolines and crystal meth dispensers, the students would come.  But it wouldn’t be a library.

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8 thoughts on “Is it time to bury the rag deep in your face? Can’t tell.

  1. Wine was involved so the details are fuzzy. I remember first talking about the new non-cost-saving perk of being able to have books delivered to one’s mailbox and suggesting a compromise: if faculty instead went to the library for their lattes and were seen to be reading those books — perhaps even discussing them — it might attract student attention. Of course, faculty on trampolines, etc, might attract even more. On second thought, perhaps not: the students have likely come to expect that by now. In any event, crystal meth was never mentioned.

  2. The memory fails somewhat, but–is there not ample space in that library (particularly on the first floor in that part away from the computers) for a cafe? Or would that be too close to the special collections?

    Also, to play devil’s advocate: LSU has a coffee kiosk on the first floor of the library. It’s very convenient.

    But oh wait and also this: Do students still have access to books from “the pit,” should they need them, or are they pretty much forever gone?

  3. College administrators everywhere are looking at the modern student and trying to justify the existence of their library by bringing in more students. However, administrators do not see the library as their students see the library.

    As a student, I have a lot of places to hang out. My room, my partner’s room, my dorm lounge, the computer lab, the Motley, the Coop, the dining commons, the Sagehen, the lawn, the library, etc. However, what the library once had as its major draw (librarians and card catalogues) have become, if not obsolete, less frequently required.

    We have access to all sorts of online databases and sources through the library’s website in order to complete our research. We no longer have to go in person to the card catalogue and look. We no longer have to inquire from the knowledgeable librarian the best approach. We can go on google. We can find people who have done similar research and glean from their bibliographies. We can look at the discussions behind Wikipedia pages and find additional sources. We have many web-friendly ways to do the majority of our research without setting foot into the library. When we do go, it is as another errand. We go in with a list of books and periodicals we found from our searches online, we check out the books, we skim and photocopy the periodicals, and we take them home with us to do our assignment in the comfort of our beds.

    It’s similar to going to a video store. You have the kind of movie you want in mind, you’ve done some research, you’re pretty sure its there. If it isn’t, you go and find similar sources which tend to be with the same call number set as the rest of your sources anyway.

    Putting in a cafe doesn’t change the fact that students have a billion other hangout spots in which they would rather study and work on their projects. It just saves us a trip to the Motley when we go to get our books and come back to our room. One stop shopping. Convenient, but ultimately doesn’t forward the goals of the school.

  4. Miriam, very interesting. So what would forward the goals of the school?

    DN, they will run a shuttle to and from the pit, yes.

  5. Well, I think the first step is acknowledging that research as we know it will never be the same as it once was. Until university leaders are able to acknowledge that simple fact, they will never make progress on this front.

    As long as “forwarding the goals of the school” is defined to be “having many students studying in the library for reasons other than ‘they were sexiled by their roommate’, ‘their neighbors are partying’, or ‘its a large quiet building with air conditioning when the temperature is up into the 90s’ ” they will not have much luck.

    My question is this: is it that students aren’t using the library or is it that students aren’t using the library in a specific way that the administrators want? If it is the latter, as I suspect, there is no real solution — unless the campus wants to remove the free access to online periodicals databases. If you want me to spend hours looking at microfiche for a research paper, I can do that. But I’d rather get it through Wilson Web as a PDF that someone else archived for me.

  6. Did you know that there are nine places in Claremont you can get a latte to go in a cardboard cup? Nine.

    I’m outta here, so my opinion as the modern student is probably of little or no value. But Miriam (Dean Feldblum?) is right. Do we need to have students in the library just to have students in the library? I visit the library every once in a while when I’m looking for somewhere really, really quiet. But, I generally avoid spending long periods of time there not because of the lack of lattes, but the lack of windows. If I want to feel boxed in, I can stay in my room, or go to Lincoln Edmunds.

    My other question: where is this money coming from? Isn’t CUC broke? And, since the library branches are closing, won’t Honnold-Mudd probably be more crowded anyway?

  7. I was at Borders last night. Every seat was filled with someone reading, typing, chatting quietly to someone else — they were sprawled all over the floor too, and almost all of them were sipping lattes. So I suppose there is something to be said for coffee, as long as it’s combined with windows (thanks sarahnade, and no it’s a different Miriam) and squashy armchairs.

    But here’s the thing. At Borders, what people are seeking is the whole scene — the comfort, the good cheer, the combination of books and coffee, light and warmth. The books are the central focus, yes, but only just. A college library can’t work like this. It has to have many more books: close to comprehensive collections or, at any rate, good, solid collections.

    I worry that Honnold is becoming like Borders: that when books are only the central purpose and not the whole purpose, it starts to matter less and less which books you have.

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