The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



A library with no books

Staff Editorial | Friday, September 4, 2009

Some people may have heard about a little petition circling the faculty and student body. Around a 1,100 students thus far, but who’s counting? This pernicious petition requests that the Hesburgh Library augment its collection with more materials, making it more competitive with other (more pretentious) leading universities, who are vastly outstripping?Notre?Dame in research materials. We have a stake in published materials and would like to make a stand for the little man we like to call journalism. We’d like to oppose the insidious expansion of the monopoly on published materials held by the Hesburgh Library collection.

We are resuscitating the courageous essence of the too long-overlooked Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. In the same sentiment of Sherman, we would like to give other homes of publication, like The Observer, a fair chance against monopolies seeking domination through conquest of yet more written materials. But what the University and misguided petitioners must realize is that there is no need for new literary materials when The Observer publishes five new issues every week.

Sure Hesburgh Library probably represents the epicenter of Notre Dame’s academic community, aided an oversize Jesus, the name of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, its numerous floors of great intellectual works and its remarkably nice and remodeled bathrooms. But not everyone can have Jesus and Hesburgh so visibly on their side. Really, the unlevel playing field here at Notre Dame becomes apparent when comparing the written works found in the Library and other campus collections of written works, hypothetically like the publications of The Observer collection. In this comparison the discrepancies are easily apparent, and it’s safe to say that the publishing playfield here on campus is downright un-American.

The lack of patriotism latent in this petition aside, there are also several practical issues that come to mind. Like do students actually use books? More specifically the books of the Library? In a recent small sample of 10 typical Notre Dame upperclassmen, only a collective total of six books had been checked out of the Library during their academic careers. Making up this sample were four business majors, one Program of Liberal Studies major, an English major and an American Studies major. Not great odds. What does this casual, non-confirmable (this sample may or may not have been The Observer Editorial Board), anonymous sample say about the average Notre Dame student’s relationship with the Library? Not much. Honestly perhaps there is simply little to say. That’s why so many unnecessary words (note: honestly, maybe, little) were added to the previous sentence.

To undergrads, the Library is the home of our favorite mascot, Touchdown Jesus. It’s the inspiration for Shrek’s castle. It’s the “warm cut” that we take when picking up taxis at Library Circle to bar and parties in those brutal winter months. None of the above functions demand the presence of books.

Of course, to be a library, the building must have a collection of books. But that seems like a which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg type of question. And everyone who’s been forced to take a philosophy or logic requirement course has learned to discount that kind of nonsense. The only situations in which it is truly necessary for the Library to possess books are scenarios involving research papers and exams. Most undergrads find these two aspects of collegiate life abhorrent. In fact, we spend half of the academic year, trying to suppress memories of finals week. The other half is generally spent procrastinating with the ultimate goal of avoiding research projects necessary for our final grades.

It seems that if the administration was being pragmatic, Notre Dame would simply eliminate those less desirable aspects the college experience. There are two possible ways to achieve a “happier” collegiate existence. Option One: Eliminate exams and research entirely, also eliminating necessity of a library collection. Option Two: Get rid of all possible research materials (i.e. books), making it impossible to adequately study and prepare for the banes of academic life. Is not the overall happiness of the Notre Dame community not what is at stake in the struggle of our college years?

So do it for the fair competition of America’s free market. Do it for Sherman and his Antitrust Act. Do it as a stand against exams and research. Do it for the overall happiness of the Notre Dame family. Do it for The Observer. Whatever your motivation, just do it. Just say no to new books at the Hesburgh Library.