Monday, October 29, 2007

I Want an Endowment

Not a line in the state budget.
My university has a pretty good library, with subscriptions to almost all the journals I read, but it doesn’t have everything. (What library does. That’s not my point.)
However, I am a lucky little student, because my university belongs to a nationwide consortium of universities, wherein a student/staff/faculty can get library privileges at little to no cost at the libraries of any of the other universities. It’s sort of like ILL, except I can actually go to the other university’s libraries, even those that are restricted to affiliates of the other university. Why is this special? Well, first, not all journals have print versions anymore, and so ILL won’t do any good. Second, if the university is close enough, I can get to the library sooner than the libraries can get the book/journal to me. Third, libraries don’t necessarily lend out journals. So I took advantage of this deal recently, and visited a private university that’s part of this consortium.
The spaces – I went to three of the libraries – are beautiful. There are maps on the walls of the bigger libraries, explaining where different call numbers are. The libraries were quiet.
They have a library devoted to my field, so almost all the journals are in one place, and are not mixed in with other fields.
The library employees are helpful. As I said, the bigger libraries have maps, and I took advantage of them. Every single time, a not-student-aged woman stopped to ask me if I needed help figuring out where I was going.
And I think all of that has to do with the money.
-At my university, "pretty" takes a back seat to "utile." A very far back seat.
-At my university, the big libraries double as computer labs, so there's a fair amount of chatter from people working on projects or socializing online.
-At my university, there isn't enough money to separate out departments quite as much, even though my department is pretty well-funded.
-At my university, when the budget was slashed, the work didn’t go away with the salary line, and the people left are doing the work of at least two; they don’t have time to stop and ask if someone needs help.
I know endowments aren't everything, but there is something very important about the space in which you work. (For example: I've been working at home, and the mere presence of a window has made such a difference that my work output is orders of magnitude better.) And a line-item in a state budget can't produce that kind of space.


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