SIUC's Dean of Library Affairs, David Carlson, is moving on to Texas A & M, the DE reports. Carlson's departure won't come as a surprise to those in the know (a group I am a marginal member of after having conversations with various librarians on the picket lines), as Carlson lost a major turf battle when Instructional Support Services was transferred to University College. Now many of the offices housed in Morris are not run by the library; I suppose it is natural that after having overseen the renovation of Morris Carlson may have been irked to find that control over much of the building was given over to another unit.
Carlson won an award as Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year in 2010, but will be best remembered, at least by this blogger, as the guy who emptied the library of books. Most of our collection remains in McLafferty, which I continue to consider outrageous; while it would have been expensive to return the books, the expense involved was a relative pittance in terms of the overall renovation of the library, and should have been made a major priority from the get go. The new Morris building is admittedly a vast improvement over the old one, and does provide a "campus center" to rival the student center. And of course digital resources are increasingly important, making texts less so. But texts still matter, even old ones, and by consigning them to exile in the vast shed on McLafferty Carlson sent the message to our students that books don't matter.
One way to access Carlson's view on what a library should mean comes in looking at his "welcome from the Dean" page on the Morris website. He begins, as does any self-respecting administrator, with a quotation--but one more revealing than most:
The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas—a place where history comes to life. —Norman CousinsCarlson then goes on to describe the new Morris, listing its attributes in the following order:
- 15 group study rooms
- Delyte's cafe
- Collections, consisting of electronic databases, print volumes, and special collections (with no mention of the unfortunate fact that most print volumes are elsewhere)
I suppose to put a positive gloss on things we should pose the question thus: What should SIUC be looking for in a new head of the library? What is the purpose of a library in this day and age? I'll start the list (though I know that any attempt to channel comments will be futile).
A. Someone who thinks that a library should, as a rather high priority, house texts.