Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sign of the Apocalypse #12: Libraries without books

Poor Jonathan Swift. You can't have a battle of the books without, well, books.

And as far as I'm concerned, you can't have much of a civilization either. But the post-literary age is at hand, and we are all the more impoverished for it:

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (see here), the University of Texas -- now home to one of my teachers, Thomas Pangle, who has always fought the good fight for the written word -- has taken the book out of the library:

When students at the University of Texas' flagship campus return in the fall, they will be greeted by a revamped undergraduate library with clusters of computers, a coffee shop, comfortable chairs, and 24-hour technical help. But one traditional resource will be in short supply: books.

Nearly all of the 90,000 volumes contained in the undergraduate library are being carted off this summer to other libraries on the campus to make room for an "information commons" -- a growing trend at colleges and universities around the country.

The goal is to provide students who are accustomed to downloading information in the comfort of their dormitory rooms with a one-stop center where they can collaborate with classmates on multimedia projects, consult with Internet-savvy librarians, and, in some cases, check out laptop computers or leave them to be repaired. About 1,000 books, most of them reference volumes, will remain in the building.

Hey, I like the internet as much as the next guy (or gal). Believe it or not, I'm sitting in front of my computer right now, and, yes, I'm logged onto the information superhighway. But I'm also surrounded by books, and, to me, a world without books is a world I want nothing to do with. No, the University of Texas isn't doing away with books, but this revamping is certainly a denigration of the written word.

Those undergraduate Longhorns may or may not accept the removal of books from their library, but their education will surely suffer and I suspect that in some important ways they'll all turn out to be lesser human beings for this.

Maybe they'll just have to download the Apocalypse when it comes.


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