College Libraries

At work the other day, we had a gift exchange as part of our prize for hitting a group project objective. We all made requests, and got the things we asked for (all on the company, to a limit), but the exchange idea was still pretty cool. I had a huge list of books to pick from, and the one that my gift-giver selected for me was "Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality", by Charles Murray (2008).

(As an aside, I just started it today, so the two-part post I'm working on about paying teachers more hasn't been influenced by this book. Part 2 is almost done, just needs the finishing touches).

So far, I'm loving it. And there are a lot of times that I've found myself agreeing with what he is saying, or even remembering having those thoughts myself. I'll write more about it when I finish, but I did find this one passage interesting enough to write about now:

He argues that "A brick-and-mortar campus is increasingly obsolete". One of the reasons a traditional campus used to make sense was that they provided an economically feasible way to feature a robust academic library. But now, with the internet (especially Google Books and Google Scholar), the importance of a large physical library is lessened. Murray says that "Libraries will still be a selling point for colleges, but as a place for students to study in pleasant surroundings".

When I read this, I was immediately reminded of two things. First, that in my four years at UCLA, I NEVER used a library for research. Or for checking out books. I used a study room in one library ONCE, because I was meeting some classmates who were already there. The only other times I set foot in the library was to look around - once before signing my Statement of Intent to Register, and once when my sister came to visit.

Second, there were only three reason I EVER heard friends, residents, or classmates give for going to the library - a quiet place to study, to nap between classes, or to grab a book on reserve (aka, their classroom textbook that they chose to check out, rather than purchase). I also know of people who would use the library for internet access when they didn't otherwise have it for whatever reason.

In four years here, I NEVER knew of somebody using a library to do research. I'm not saying that nobody does, but at least as far as my social/academic network is concerned, Murray was spot on.


Nick said...

I actually made great use of the library for research, but not until my senior year when I worked on my senior thesis. I've also used it a couple of times since graduation for work. But for the most part, your analysis is completely correct.

Post a Comment