SMU journalism students have taped and posted a faculty panel’s extended discussion of the library and institute. The panel consists of History professor Alexis McCrossen, English Professor Dennis Foster, Political Scientist Cal Jillson, and Theatre Professor (and Faculty Senate President) Rhonda Blair. Student comments at an open mike and camera set up in the student center are also very interesting, and show that they have been following the debate closely in some cases, particularly when it comes to the Institute. In general this is a revealing look at a campus full of thoughtful people who are drawing on their expertise and integrating new knowledge and information as quickly as possible.
One thought I did have while listening to this is that the focus of the discussion on the Institute has really let the educational benefits that library supporters claim go unexamined. In some cases these are clearly exaggerated — in January’s faculty meeting, for example, one faculty member stated that this would be “one of the great libraries of the world.” That comment reveals a basic ignorance of what reseach libraries are, and a troubling naivete about the state of SMU’s library system, which is not funded at anywhere near the level necessary for a nationally prominent university. Our DeGolyer library, for example, has leading collections relating to the U.S. West. A generation ago it made as many acquisitions as leading libraries in the field at places like Berkeley and Yale. But over the years the central administration has chipped away at its funding, siphoning the yields from the endowment that came with it to support staff positions. Now it is no longer in the vanguard. This is the kind of resource that makes for an excellent university, and if it and other similar endeavors continue to be neglected, SMU won’t better itself, library or not.
Click here to listen.