Nov 252017

This story reminded me of the years of wild hedonism that defined my youth:

IUP to remove 170,000 unused books from its libraries

The  Indiana University of Pennsylvania library says that about half of its 486,000 books haven’t been checked out in 20 years, so it’s going to get rid of them.


I spent *years* visiting the libraries of Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Colorado in Boulder, slowly and methodically scanning through the stacks of books in the science, engineering and aerospace sections. I found a *lot* of stuff (oddly, I didn’t seem to find a whole lot of parties, booze and women there, but oh well). The stuff I found formed the beginnings of my aerospace history collection… vast piles of photocopies made from books I’d pull off the shelves, go through page by page, copy what I wanted, then put back on the shelf. A minuscule percentage of what I found useful was actually checked out.

I understand that the engineering library  at UC Boulder has removed the bulk of the books, moving them to an off-site location. Students can still access them… you simply need to put in a request for said books and they’ll show up some time later. That’s fine, *if* you know what book you want. But how much useful research has been done by simply browsing? How often does someone find something useful in the book *next* to the one they were specifically looking for?

The claim for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania library is that they are going to focus their cleanout on books that are available digitally. But how many books, periodicals, papers and such are available as scans that are just *horrible* in quality? The NASA Tech Report server is filled with old reports that were scanned by people who clearly thought that diagrams, photos and artwork were wastes of space, best reduced to 2-bit B&W images that if you squint real hard while at a great distance might vaguely resemble the ghost of the original.

If the library needs money, fine. Take if from the athletic program. Hell, cut the coaches salaries by ten percent, that alone should just about do the trick. Every year have an auction to sell off the naming rights for the next years football team. Charge double tuition for grievance studies courses. Open an on-campus liquor store and pot dispensary, all profits going to the library. Cut the pay of all Socialist teachers to minimum wage. There are better solutions than getting rid of books by the truckload.

 Posted by at 7:51 am
  • se jones

    I understand that the engineering library at UC Boulder has removed the bulk of the books

    You understand right. The book situation is bad enough, but it’s loosing the old periodicals that is the tragic loss for me. I’ve spent so many happy hours thumbing through great old aerospace magazines, it’s just not the same looking at on-line archives. On-line archives when you can find them, some of the old trade journals are pretty obscure, they aren’t on

    • publiusr

      Dumping anything aerospace should be a death penalty office–punishable by being chained to flame trenches during static tests.

      • se jones

        Nothing being dumped, it’s the trend toward “satellite campuses” for the University and the desire to make all materials easier to share from a central repository.

        But…it sucks shit anyway, the University is in BOULDER, the tuition is outrageous, and I shouldn’t have to order a book or periodical from a vault in Denver and wait a week just to make things more “fair”.

  • Nemo

    As someone with degrees in both engineering and history, reading this felt like following my morning coffee with a punch in the gut.

    • Scottlowther

      Glad I could help.

      As someone with a degree in engineering and an interest in history, the switch away from physical books towards digital could bite us in the ass. Give it another generation and many more libraries will be replaced with firewalled databases. That’s fine after a fashion… Until an EMP or a Carrington event wipes them out. At that point universities become little more than collections of buildings.

      • publiusr

        If the library needs money, fine. Take if from the athletic program.

        Well said.

        I do have some nice finds from the discards…

  • Ulrich Brasche III

    more libraries, less welfare