Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Book-y Big Thirsty From Compost.

I love books. This does not seem to be too strange for a proffie -- in normal society, maybe, but not so much in the academy.

So, here is my tale of woe.

My teaching duties are spread over several campuses. After a brief hiatus, I have returned to a campus where, with great fanfare, the faculty offices were recently moved to a newly-remodeled area. In my absence, someone had helpfully packed up the books from the desk where I used to camp out and had placed the box next to the new desk where I can camp out. (Thanks, boxer-upper!) So far, so good.
The new office space is nice. Still cubicles, but good quality cubes with nice chairs.

The problem?

Not a single damn bookshelf in sight. If I try to unpack my cardboard box of books, I will have no place to put them other than to scatter them all over my desk, leaving no room to work. Some pointy-headed administrative “decorator” apparently has decided that bookshelves with all those different-colored book spines ruins the feng shui, or something. Unfortunately, my area of hamster fur weaving requires a lot of reference material in printed form, and I've got no place to keep a few dozen books.

Down the hall somewhere, there is purported to be a locked cabinet where we can store the books we need. Yeah, that's convenient.

Q: Is this “bookless university” thing a trend? Or is it just my progressive institution?


  1. LOL WUT
    i don't even
    et c.

    Is this like a cube farm prarie-dog sort of set up? Like the old library study carrels, but sans shelving?

  2. It's absolutely a trend. New offices are being made smaller, and so less room for books. New buildings are being built without rooms for departmental libraries and the like. Libraries are running out of room, and are trying hard to buy as few books as they can--nevermind if using most online books is not nearly as convenient as hard copies. Libraries and departments are refusing to take donations from retiring professors if there are any duplications, no matter how valuable or useful the book is. Good quality books are being thrown away--I know of someone who found a bunch of perfectly useful books in good condition in one of the library's dumpsters. Career administrators don't really understand how many of us still need books and that everything is not online. My university's main library's excellent reference section has been shrunken and scattered throughout the library so we can have a "learning commons" and provide computers to students that already have them (my uni's students probably have above-average economic profiles). Meanwhile, if we profs want students to use actual books for research, we're the irrational ones.

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  4. It's a trend. My campus recently closed down its library for four years, in order to build a new, $100 million library. Just in case you thought this might have been worth it, the new library has all the books relegated to the basement, and all on compact shelving, so it's hard to browse without being terrified of being crushed to death. There is also a Starbuck's IN the library, just a few feet from the stacks, with no attempt to keep food and coffee separate from the books. The rationale for this is that it makes people more eager to come into the library. And of course, every time the budget is constrained, which is always, the budget for books is the first to be cut. All this is yet another illustration of how, when we use machines to do our thinking for us, it doesn't make us smarter.

  5. What are these books you speak of?

    I have at least ten freshman students who have the Bedford Handbook on their iPhone or iPad.

  6. At the place where I used to teach, I took 2 years leave to do my Ph. D. residency and finish my thesis. When I left, the library was a place where people go to to study and do work.

    I returned, and that same library was absolute bedlam. When I asked the librarian about what had happened to rules about being quiet, I was told that there was a distant corner where students could go if they wanted that sort of thing.

    I don't know if my alma mater, which is in the same city, has done that to any of its libraries. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if it did in the years since I finished my degree. The current administration appears to be dedicated to enhancing the student "experience" by turning the place into a giant food court and playground.

  7. I've started running into the following situation: I look up a new title in our library catalog and yes, we do have it, but only the "online edition". So I click on it and it is often possible to download/print chapter by chapter, if I want to (but I'm probably not supposed to.) You'd think they would also get the bound version for the library, but that never seems to happen. I hate it.

    When we moved to our new building, there was some sort of rule like "non-regulation furniture not allowed in the offices". After I had stuffed all my books and papers into the bookcases and cabinets provided, there was still a lot left in boxes. Somebody in a nearby office was getting rid of a couple of "non-regulation" bookcases and file cabinets, and I promptly grabbed them (and there is still a lot in boxes, I have enough books for a small department). Forget the feng-shui. The furniture police never came.

    1. Yeah, my tiny offices, almost always shared, never have had enough bookcases. In one instance, I was told happily I had a choice of office furniture! File cabinet or bookcase?

      But I've never been given space with NO shelves.

      I advise you to do as Peter and I have done: get cheap or free shelves and put them in anyway. Label them clearly on the back so it's clear they're yours. Try yard sales near local universities in May and June, when students are moving home or graduating. Look on Craigslist for used Ikea stuff -- a lot of that is designed for tiny living spaces.

  8. Re: OP -- What Lemurpants said.

    Peter, our library seems to be moving in the e-book direction, too, and I am filled with trepidation about it. Given that our students (let alone our proffies) are not nearly as techno-addled as it seems most North Americans are these days, I worry about inadvertently limiting access for people who can't shell out the crazy amount of money it takes to buy a tablet in this country. E-books are only a viable option once technology reaches critical mass, and we're a long way off.

    Re: cafe culture, our library just opened a second coffee shop on the top floor in addition to the one already installed on the ground floor. No coffee allowed in the stacks, of course, but I find it hilarious that one location was deemed insufficient to service ONE TEA-PARTYING BUILDING.

  9. Lemur & Edna: Yes, a cube farm like you would see in an insurance company. I've already resigned myself to not having a real office with a door -- only administrators and janitors get those -- but the lack of a single book shelf in the entire faculty "area" is really bugging me.


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