Library needs more books, not less

George Anderson

In response to Frank Yonkof’s September 23 piece about the downsizing of the University Library’s collection.

To the Editor:

After reading Mr. Yonkof’s piece, I must question James Bracken’s judgment and his qualifications to have any say over the University Library’s collection. His and President Lefton’s complaints sound vaguely like a fisherman moaning about there being too many fish in the sea.

The library is one of our most sacred institutions. It is a storehouse of knowledge, and yes, that knowledge should be stored even if some of it has never been cracked open. It is not the place of one man to judge what is and isn’t useful content. For that matter, content does not even need to be useful to be worth preserving; it is valuable simply for being a part of the human achievement. If certain books have never been opened, this is a testament to the small minds of Kent State students, not to the worthlessness of those forgotten books.

As time rolls on, our species continues to produce written works of all kinds, and the sum total of human writing only increases. If anything, the University Library should be expanding its collection to internalize and protect the expanding body of work that is human writing, rather than reducing it to make more “study space.” The University Library is not a 12-story tower of study space. It is a 12-story tower of bookshelves. That’s the whole point. The University should consider building a gigantic parking garage of study space if they feel the need, rather than taking the library-ness out of the library. The role of a library is to preserve the written works of humans.

Why should the library be inviting? So students accustomed to consuming the colorful trifles of pop-culture will feel some desire to open books of real content? If this is really a problem, perhaps it lies in the minds and hearts of the student body, not in the architectural design of our repository of learning. Perhaps Kent State students have not had their minds expanded enough to appreciate pure content without glitz and bling. Perhaps professors are not challenging them enough in the classroom. Perhaps professors are not driving them to think critically and search out knowledge for their own enrichment rather than for multiple-choice test answers. If one truly feels bored reading a great book in a dull room, one is not really reading the book. Make that effort and discover the rewards!

I don’t go to the library to get an endorphin rush or to feel spiritually refreshed. I don’t go to the library for the cream-yellow paint on the walls or the smell of Jazzman’s coffee. I go to the library to check out books. I check out books for their content because I like to learn. The purpose of the library building is simply to house these books in a readily accessible way, to protect them and readers from the elements and to provide space for the books to be read and studied in reasonable comfort.

But I understand the motive. A glitzier library can use its space for glitziness rather than for housing smelly old books. A glitzier library will attract more starry-eyed 17-year-olds on campus tours. A glitzier library will compel those kids’ parents to put money in Kent State’s pocket. After all, sex sells, and Kent State is all about selling.

George Anderson, Bachelor of Music, Kent State, 2010.