Tuesday, December 27, 2016

UC Santa Cruz Destroying Books

Written by a math professor for the San Jose Mercury News:
Over the summer, workmen removed most of the remaining books from
our Science and Engineering Library at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Roughly 80,000 books, worth between $2-$6 million were destroyed or shipped off campus to distant storage facilities.

The act was taken with virtually no faculty input.

In 1990, when I arrived to work at UCSC, I took pride in our Science Library.

By 2000 new journals were no longer displayed.

By 2010 the journal room was gone, turned into a large study. We could no longer browse new journals.

After journals had been vanquished, the next enemy was clear: books.

At the beginning of this Fall quarter I entered the library. No books on the first floor. I walked up to the second floor, where the math and physics collection used to be. Nothing. No books.

Space. Lots of space. Students scattered around on their devices. Some eating. Some drinking...

In shock, I went down to talk to a librarian. “What happened to all the books? I’d heard some were left.”

He gave me a wan smile. “They’re in the basement.”

Down in the basement about half the original collection of math and physics books huddled dejectedly in a corner, valiant survivors.

I’ve since found that the phenomenon of shrinking and destroying university research libraries is international. But as we like to say here at UCSC, we are at the vanguard.

Our head librarian prefers the word “de-duplicate” to “destroy”, “remove” or “shred”.

The rationale behind de-duplification? Space. Empty study space with desks for the flood of 600 additional students UC Santa Cruz was pressured to admit this Fall.

How did the library staff decide what books to de-duplicate? Data, analytics, the ubiquitous algorithm, devoid of a human element. If a book had not been touched, according to library data, in the last five years, then it went on their chopping list.
The story has a sad ending, of course,  but the apres-story in the comments begins thusly:
The UC is called a "system" because it includes all nine campuses and books can be sourced from any campus. If you need an arcane publication on the germination of the golf ball cactus or a dissertation on gerbil husbandry, you order a book from the UC Davis library. For obscure dental or medical topics you order from UCSF. For legal topics you order a book from UCLA. As long as UC Santa Cruz didn't toss out their books on Feminism, Transgenderism, Marxism, Cannabis, and Wicka, they should have plenty of resources to remain relevant in their areas of expertise.
Ouch!  I guess I'm not the only person who thinks UC Santa Cruz beclowns itself on a regular basis.


Auntie Ann said...

My high school removed pretty much all the books in the library years ago, replaced with study tables and "multi-media" rooms.

Anonymous said...

Once faculty began to accept digital sources in "research" the "writing was on the wall". Too bad. Little effort is expended to verify digital sources in our high school. Students don't really learn how to do actual research. And they wonder why students can't think. They don't know how to pose serious questions. Afterall, only google needs to understand their question. Academia is really withering away.