Apparently a lot has changed since I walked the campus of good old UC Santa Cruz. This past summer saw campus workmen remove “most of the remaining books from our Science and Engineering Library.” 80,000 books, roughly $2 to $6 million of printed material, was either destroyed or shipped offsite to be stacked and forgotten in a storage unit.
Because, when they expanded McHenry Library, they did not think ahead and think to add some extra storage space. Even putting these books in on-site basement storage would have been preferable.
Instead, there was “virtually no faculty input” in the stripping of UC Santa Cruz’s Science and Engineering Library. Between 1990 and 2010, the library’s journal display dwindled into nothing. Students could no longer browse the room that was usually kept up to date. If they wanted news, they had to bring out their phones or tablets and log on to a website.
Once the journals were out of the way, books of all shapes and sizes were next. Fall 2016 brought with it an almost entirely empty library. The walls of the first and second floors — that had been filled with books on math and physics and science — had been emptied to make way for new study spaces, a necessity for the 600 new students the UC was forced to admit for the new academic year.
The only place that contained some books: the basement.
If you ask a UC Santa Cruz librarian, they will tell you research libraries are being “de-duplicated” instead of “destroyed” or “shredded.”
But how did they decide which books to de-duplicate? Well, if a book has not been logged into the computer system as “desired,” meaning no one had checked it out or it did not have to be reshelved, then it is deemed not useful and culled from the stacks.
A little extreme, but, hey!, this is our education at risk.
This process not only hinders the education of students but demonizes them. Some students’ only sources for their research are the books within the walls of the Science and Engineering Library. They go in, use the book they need, and then reshelve it. Unfortunately, by taking care of our books and being good library patrons, “the algorithm missed [the] book and now it is shredded or moldering in a distant storage facility.”
Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and find a copy on another UC campus, but it, too, will be at the mercy of its librarians and school-wide algorithm.
UC Santa Cruz students and faculty were not informed of the de-duplication process, nor were they given a chance to buy the books beforehand. According to Professor Richard Montgomery, a mathematics professor at UCSC, “Millions of dollars of public property was destroyed. A long-standing and painstakingly collected archive was removed to solve a temporary space problem.”
Neither the librarians or the workmen responsible for removing these books bothered to keep a list of those de-duplicated. In layman’s terms, there is no record. No hope of restocking the shelves when (or if) the school’s population dies down.
Maybe something can be made from the UC Santa Cruz library’s master list.
Maybe we should start checking out the books we need. You never know when the library might be de-duplicated.