A library without books is not a library

Zoe Cagan

This “research” University’s Fine Arts Library is being shoved aside.

It is a commonly known idea that this country undervalues Fine Arts Education — from the White House that proposed to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities,to Texas elementary schools losing funding for vital creative programs for their students. On our campus, we still must fight the same thing. The Fine Arts Library has already lost 60 percent of its resources and is under threat to lose the rest.

A library without books is not a library.

These books and materials were relocated to off-campus locations to make room for the new School of Design and Creative Technologies. In the attempt to expand our College of Fine Arts, Dean Doug Dempster, Provost Maurie McInnis and director of libraries Lorraine Haricombe have instead stunted the growth of their COFA students.

It’s hard to proclaim that “What Starts Here Changes the World” when students feel their administrators are trying their best to ensure that we can’t make that happen. How are COFA students supposed to expand their knowledge when the most basic resource is 3–5 business days away? How are we supposed to compete for jobs with graduates from other universities with better resources? How are we supposed to feel like we belong to a campus that prides itself on research when our research opportunities dwindle away right in front of us? What do we tell incoming students when they ask why the Fine Arts Library only has one floor of books?

A library without books is not a library.

We have a petition. We have joint letters voicing the concerns from the professors of Butler School of Music, Art History, and Theatre and Dance. We have a resolution to protest the removal of the books, and we have the very simple opposition statement “don’t take our books.” The fact that all of this is necessary is ludicrous. It is shameful that students, faculty and even alumni must fight so hard to keep something so essential on this campus. The FAL should not be shrinking on this “research” campus. It should be surpassing those of other institutions, but instead we are struggling to
preserve one floor of resources.

It is a cycle. The fewer books and materials there are, the fewer people will visit. The less traffic there is in the FAL, the more reason the administration has to repurpose it. Fewer people come in, more materials are relocated. Dean Dempster has used the argument that fewer people visit the library each month in his position for the repurposing of the FAL, however the fact that 60 percent of the materials are no longer on this campus is undoubtedly an element behind this. Students simply cannot use a resource that fails to serve them adequately. When a shiny new engineering building with its own library inside is erected across the street, and COFA students are dealing with this travesty, it gives the strong impression that our administration does not care about us.

A library without books is not a library.

But it’s not only about the books. Quality dance, theater and opera performances are not so easily found with a Google search. Many artists do not share their work online, so when DVDs are moved to remote storage facilities, it limits access and impedes the ability for progress. Art and Art History information is mostly in catalogs and books that are rarely reproduced in electronic form. The materials that are digitalized, however, lose a great deal of their artistic effect. Music students often must order scores independently with their own money because the FAL supported by our tuition lacks them.

Maybe a day will come when this country will understand the value of the Arts and its effect on our humanity, and COFA will never be faced with a situation like this again.

Until then, we’ll continue to make our voices heard.

Cagan is a music performance junior from Houston.