[LINK] Cultural destruction
Thu, 22 Mar 2001 09:41:21 +1100 (EST)
On Thu, 22 Mar 2001, Jan Whitaker wrote:
> What is the world coming to? I read the headline on this story thinking it
> was a censorship story. Instead it's destruction due to
> underfunding. What a sad state of affairs. couldn't they have at least
> given the books to community libraries, nursing homes, literacy centres,
> etc etc? What sort of respect for learning does this express from a
> 'university'???? :(
This is actually old news. In fact I worked with some of the librarians
who were involved at one time. The whole thing actually happened back in
1996 and was in the news then too.
When I asked some library personnel why they said
"Shhh! - it's not good to talk about it!"
They explained that many if not all of the books were
not suitable for shelving or circulation. In fact I saw many donations
come in once, which were more trouble than they were worth.
They really were.
Often the books are damaged by insect infestation, missing pages or
covers or ruined spines. The effort involved in repairing the
books has to be traded off against the value of their content or
their intrinsic worth.
I also saw books that were disposed because the pages were stuck together
via water damage. They were unreadable.
With respect to the insects, yes you can fumigate the
books but then you are passing on potentially dangerous chemicals to
students. Also the insects are often not totally wiped out and thus
can pass on to other uninfested books.
In some cases the books involved were that fragile, they fell apart
when opening. Many books are also printed on acid paper that actually
breaks down after a few years, ending in dust.
Every few years, the students find out about these sorts of matters
and make great noises about the destruction of books. Because trying
to explain the reality of the situation is often futile, the destruction or
disposal of library books is often done in a very covert manner.
The truth is, you can employ a library technician to spend all their time
binding and refurbishing books that intrinsically have no value or you can
have that technician out and about in the library assisting readers.
I managed to scavenge some books from the turn of the century including
a 1901 Australian atlas and I can verify that the fuss being made about this
is way out of proportion! I ended up putting most of the
books in the trash myself and gave 2 of them to friend who tried to
repair them but didn't get very far either.
The bottom line is that it you can spend bags of money repairing and shelving
books that are probably obsolete or of only minimal interest or you
can use the resources to provide better library services and shelving
for books that will actually be of use to the community. Of course
there is always room for "collectibles" but I think I can safely
say there are very few of those and I do know that all disposals
are carefully assessed before being consigned to the skip.
There is no doubt that UWS is under serious strain both financially
and morale wise. It's unfortunate that it took an issue that had already
been mulled over 5 years ago to expose a situation that really needs
to be resolved and discussed publically - a University under siege.
rachel (ex UWS employee)
Rachel Polanskis Optus/Excite@Home
UNIX Administrator 100 Harris Street
IT Operations Pyrmont, Sydney NSW
email@example.com Ph: (+61 2) 900 51144