The head of the institution that employs me just sent out a notice about the formation of a Libraries Master Plan Steering Committee. In the email, this person states that he “believe[s] that libraries such as ours will no longer serve as storage centers for printed or recorded material.”
[After Your Humble Blogger wrote the above, two days passed to deal with the exploding-head thing. So it’s not so much just sent anymore. On the other hand, Gentle Readers shouldn’t consider this a considered response—any attempt on my part to calmly consider the memo just leads to more flying fragments of skull.]
I’m not going to write about the idea of the bookless library at this point—I have no reason to believe that I will be the person to break the streak of consecutive stupid things said about bookless libraries, which currently stands at umpty-’leven zillion and six—but if I were the head of a middle-size academic institution, I hope I would remember to say the quiet part quietly. I mean, yes, I know, everyone knows that the members of this kind of committee are not chosen randomly, nor are they chosen for diversity of opinion. They are chosen, rather, for a balance of pretention to legitimacy and receptiveness to the Administration worldview. And that worldview is certainly communicated to the members of the committee well in advance of the memo announcing its formation. These things are fixed.
I’m not even against fixing these sorts of things in advance. The administration has a responsibility to run the place, and they can’t really do that if they let committees run wild. Not that there shouldn’t be participation by the faculty (and the students, I suppose, with some representation of some kind) (and even participation by the staff would be pleasant) but that usually has to work within the structure of the rigged committee and with the formation of the Adminstration’s worldview in the first place. If we really are getting to the point, in two thousand and eleven, that the University is just now going to started really thinking about the Master Plan for the library, we are screwed.
Not that getting rid of our books and journals is different from being screwed—not that the music library getting rid of their scores and CDs is different from being screwed. But sometimes the library gets screwed; part of running a big place is figuring out whose turn it is to get screwed.
But the thing that made my head explode was that the head of the University said the quiet part loudly. Why? Why put the bad news right in the announcement, under his name, not buried in a report by committee where blame can be spread around and diffused and dispersed, if anybody actually notices the thing until it’s accomplished? What’s going on there?
There are two possibilities that come to mind. A, this could just be a total cock-up, where nobody really noticed what was in the memo until the send button got clicked. Or, second, the University Administration may think that radically reducing the books, journals and recordings available to students and faculty is the good news.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,