The OED defines a library as, “A place set apart to contain books for reading, study, or reference. (Not applied, e.g. to the shop or warehouse of a bookseller.) In various applications more or less specific.”
Over the summer, the Kent State University Library systematically removed several floors of books and periodicals to make the library less of a library according to the definition above. In fact, they removed about half of the library’s former book holdings and moved them to an off-site storage location [read more about the move here].
Certainly, some of the innovations put into the space where there were once thousands and thousands of books are nice: the fourth floor has comfy couches and bar tables with chairs. The second floor is now home to the “Math Emporium,” which is a large computer lab to help students with their maths. These additions will provide students with great learning opportunities if students embrace them. However, I wonder if these things should crowd out the resources of researchers at the institution? Should these these things be housed in a different building other than the library so that there would not be a detrimental loss of valuable on-hand books?
As it is, the removal of books from the Kent State Library has further eroded its already lacking bibliomaniacal excellence . In the past, I generally expected to have to find my books elsewhere through Ohiolink or interlibrary loan. However, it was always a happy event to find a book that I needed held here, on-site, and quick to access.
So, while I recently followed several bits of quoted material in one book, I tried to reach out to the Kent State Library for the primary sources. Amazingly, the catalog reported that they were in deed here. Unfortunately, it also told me that they were only technically “here.” Instead, they were owned by Kent State, but they were held in off-site storage. This means that I have to request the books and wait for the titles to be found, trucked, and processed before I can use them. The turn around time for one title was about 24 hours. I am still waiting on another book that I requested two days ago.
This state of affairs isn’t so much different than my usual experience with this library, but it is frustrating nonetheless. In this case, those books could have been within a short walk from my study carrel. My research would have been done, recorded, and integrated into my dissertation. As it is, I get to cool my heels on that point while I dash off to look at something else. For my kind of thinking, this is jarring.
It is certainly one of my deeply held hopes that I have the privilege of working at a university with a fine and fully functional on-site, book-holding library.