The best of times, the worst of times: Inside LSU’s Middleton Library and the Cox Center

By Robert Mann

In my column on | Times-Picayune that appeared online Friday morning, I write about the opulence of LSU’s Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes compared to the disrepair of the school’s shabby Middleton Library.

Here are some photos from the library, which I took in mid-December 2015 and some photos from the Cox Center (some that took and others from the Center’s website). You can take a nifty virtual tour of the Cox Center at this link.

Middleton Library



Plastic sheeting covers bound copies of the Congressional Record in the basement



Plastic sheeting covers microfilm in the library’s basement



Water damage to the floor in the basement area where microfilm is stored.



This office in the library’s basement regularly floods during heavy rains. The floor has badly buckled and wood is beginning to rot.


Compact stacks in the basement. The floor has rotten and has been replaced with plywood.


Rotted floor in the compact stacks area in the library’s basement


In places, the floor has buckled to the point that some compact shelving cannot be used.



The ceiling in the library’s basement above the compact stacks


Water-damaged copies of the Congressional Record


Damaged flooring between the compact stacks in the library basement


Waste baskets used to capture leaking water in the library’s basement compact stacks area.


The men’s bathroom on the library’s first floor is disgusting.


Men’s bathroom on the library’s first floor




Men’s bathroom on the library’s first floor.



Second floor. One of the library’s great deficiencies is the lack of power outlets for students.


The library cannot afford permanent signs on shelving in the stacks. Instead, it uses index cards to tell students where the books are



Worn furniture on the third floor. Almost every piece of furniture students use on the second, third and fourth floors is decades old and in very bad shape.





Worn furniture on the third floor. Would you like to study for finals in this chair?



Third-floor furniture has seen better days.


Third floor. Carpets are stained and damaged throughout the library.


Study desk on third floor, reflecting decades of defacement.


Debatable, but lack of funding is slowly killing the LSU Library. Study desk on third floor



Fourth floor carpet. Lovely, huh?


Fourth floor. Is this where the mouse lives?


Fourth-floor carpet damage.


Another lovely carpet stain on the fourth floor


Peeling wallpaper on the fourth floor


Fourth floor


Fourth floor



Study area on fourth floor. The worn furniture is decades-old.


Chair in lobby area of fourth floor


Meanwhile, over at the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes










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32 Responses to The best of times, the worst of times: Inside LSU’s Middleton Library and the Cox Center

  1. jechoisir says:

    Oh Louisiana! It should be a crime for a state to fund and citizens to support the kind of athletic program we support at LSU, but especially when the university’s libraries are in such a state of disrepair. (I don’t want to hear how the former “supports itself”) And what you are showing is only the structural mess. Consider the funding for new purchases of books and historical materials; compare that figure with the funding at states with thriving economies. The impetus is not going to come from the ignorant and uneducated of our state. Nor does it appear likely that it will come from LSU alumni. How long are we going to look at such shameful abuse of what should be part of a state’s legitimate mission—the education of our population—and listen to folks say, “Well, that’s okay. —-for Louisiana”? This is not merely a Jindal gift. With only a few exceptions, Louisiana leaders don’t use or appreciate university libraries. Sickening.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Stephen Winham says:

      In tight budget times during which funding cuts are made indiscriminately (what I call “strangling the budget”), among the first things cut is maintenance. These photos clearly show the results.

      It is much easier and of much greater cost-benefit to properly maintain infrastructure than to let it erode because the problems multiply and create the domino effect that can be seen in the library. For example, a roof leak doesn’t just erode the roof, it damages everything the water reaches below it. Plumbing problems don’t get better ignored, etc. etc.

      What we need from JBE and the legislature is honest budgeting. Jay Dardenne says that is his goal. When it comes, we can only hope that, regardless of what is cut from the budget – and these need to be real cuts, not general strangling – the remainder is adequately funded.

      An honest budget is good government, but as we enter what we hope will be a new era we need to remember what Uncle Earl said, “Someday Louisiana is going to get good government…and when they do, they ain’t going to like it.”

      As evidenced by the Cox Center, private targeted funding is a great thing, but it is up to the public to fund the greater public needs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ray Andrews says:

      Are you aware that the Athletics Department, mostly through the football team, is self-funded and actually gave the Academic side millions of dollars due to some of Jindal’s budget cuts?


  2. Corky mcgrew says:

    You have kindly pointed the obvious discrepancy in the values of Louisiana…les bons temps only roll for athletics…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. happy panda says:

    Unless things have changed since I was at LSU, although the Cox center is called the ‘student athlete’ center, anyone can use it. There may be some areas off limits to non-athletes, but I used to use the computer lab in there all the time as there was hardly ever anyone else there, and I was not an athlete. The disrepair in Middleton is disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but the other is just a newer facility and is in expectedly better condition. You could also compare the study areas and computer labs in Coates and the Student Union. Middleton is old and gets much more use. Should it be fixed up though? Definitely


    • John Thomas says:

      Things have changed. That computer lab in Cox/Gym Armory was a public computer lab paid for by the Student Tech Fee (but received little use). The ACSA took over the space for offices/tutoring.


  4. Spiderlily says:

    Thank you for posting these photos. The conditions at the library are embarrassing for Louisiana’s Flagship University.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fredster says:

    I’m asking this only because I don’t know. Was that Cox Center paid for by Cox Communications? Were any university funds used for the lovely building and contents?


    • rtmannjr says:

      It was refurbished with $15 million in private money. The point of my column today will be that it’s great the student athletes have such a facility. I don’t mind it. I just know wish private donors cared about the rest of the campus and I know that if the football team were required to study or practice in a dilapidated building like the library, the public would be outraged and woudln’t stand for it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fredster says:

        Thanks fro the reply Bob. I agree with you completely.

        I wonder if Mr. Moret in his new position could start a drive like “Friends of Middleton Library”? Perhaps it could make up somewhat for how he screwed the state and taxpayers in his former job lavishing tax credits on corporations who ended up in so many instances contributing nothing to the state’s tax base.


  6. Chris P Bacon says:

    Shaquille O’neal funded the construction of the Cox center. Know your argument before you argue it


  7. Chris P Bacon says:

    Shaquille O’Neal funded the construction of the Cox Center. I am an athlete myself and the entire facility is open to non-student athletes except for the nutrition station. Know your argument before you argue.


    • rtmannjr says:

      Cox gave $5 million.


    • martybankson says:

      Is that “non-student athletes,” or non-athlete students? The difference could spoil your argument argument.


    • David Meyer says:

      “Know your argument before you argue.” Regardless of who paid for the Cox Center, it nonetheless speaks volumes (no pun intended) that LSU supporters are willing to dish out big bucks for a cushy student-athlete center while permitting LSU’s library — which as far as buildings go is the real heart and soul of campus — to fall into an embarrassing state of disrepair.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mikaelaallen says:

      It doesn’t matter if the facility is open to non-athletes or not. The point is that our library, the supposed hub of academic pursuit, has fallen into comical disrepair while other buildings that are less important to the majority of the student and faculty populations are well maintained. The comparison between the two buildings reveals the absurdity of LSU’s academic culture. The COX Center does not and will not stand as a replacement for the library, regardless of accessibility. Furthermore: How is it an acceptable solution to close the library on game days?

      Liked by 1 person

    • John Thomas says:

      The Cox ACSA is NOT open to all students, all students have unobstructed access to the central Bo Campbell Auditorium. Non-student-athletes cannot use student-athlete tutorial centers, computer labs, life skills, study space, counselors, or any other resources. Instead, non-student athletes must use other areas of campus (departments who have smaller budgets for 30000 students, than the CCACSA does for the hundreds of student-athletes they support.


  8. Lein Shory says:

    This is infuriating. Infuriating. I earned a graduate degree from LSU in 1997, and the library was old and deteriorating even then. Apparently not one cent has been spent to improve things, and it has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it looks unhealthy and unsafe to even be in there. I know all the problems with Jindal and the other knuckledraggers in state government. And I know how libraries often get the left behind at universities because they don’t have a constituency of alumni. But everyone should be ashamed of this. Any university that purports to be of any quality of all cannot have a library in this condition. It’s appalling. The university needs to make the library a fundraising priority. Otherwise I don’t see how it can call itself a university.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. rgp152 says:

    Thank you for this. It puts the situation in stark relief. The biggest problem with Middleton, besides water damage and disrepair, however, is the air quality. Please, could you investigate this as well? It’s hard to breathe in there. The air quality should be tested to make sure it meets safety standards. I’d be surprised if it does. If it doesn’t not, the University will be required to promptly address the matter.


  10. martybankson says:

    This is actually a good look at way the corporate state is maneuvering, with the aid of complicit state officials, the privatization of higher education. Throw big bucks to the athletic farm systems of mega-billion monoliths NBA, NFL, and MLB, polishing up those facilities to palatial specs, while investing in the academic sector beginning with control of curricula with poorly paid adjuncts for the sole purpose of training of future capitalists rather than pursuing truth. Tenure will be on the line for dissenting professors. Unorthodoxy and inquiry will be minimized. The money fix up the physical plant will have to take a back seat until this part of the plan is taken care of.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tom Hanlon says:

    The students, and the memory of Troy Middleton deserve much better.


  12. This is appalling! LSU is the flagship university of the entire state, and its librar(ies) an irreplaceable resource for researchers all over the world. Granted, the archives and special collections are in a separate building–or were 20 years ago when I researched my dissertation–but if this is an indicator of budgetary priorities, I am not hopeful. The university administration should make this Priority #1 if they truly want LSU to be more than an athletic factory.


  13. jechoisir says:

    The participation of private donors in the mission of universities is not new in the U.S. Donations from private individuals and corporate entities have sustained private colleges and universities since 1632. The magnificent libraries of Yale and Harvard are made possible largely by such donations. Faculty salaries, teaching and research grants, scholarships, and many more ordinary operating expenses are funded in whole or in part through these donations. Stand in the commons of any major private university in the East and look around: what you will see around you will be like the public libraries made possible by Andrew Carniege—the fruits of capitalism, used to further the mission of the university.

    The fruits of capitalism are not incompatible with the legitimate mission of education. It’s just a question of the university using them to further that mission. No doubt Cox Inc. would have as happily donated a library or a science facility had the university so actively sought either as a priority. Privately funded chairs can be had if the university really wants them. But a university in which the athletic department is permitted to do its own fund-raising, regardless of the mission of the school, is a university that has forgotten its mission. Don’t blame capitalism. Blame a lack of ethical integrity on the parts of the school and the state that owns it. Corporate America can only purchase what is for sale.

    When we have a governor who actively seeks to elevate the vision of Louisianians, who every single day shows those in the darkest corners of our state what true excellence looks like, what possibilities exist for a population that is well educated, then we will begin to change. When the governor and legislature treat schools and universities as educational institutions and assure that educational governing bodies make the educational mission of the institutions under their oversight paramount, then we will climb out of the dust heap of America.

    Huey Long, dictator that he was, demanded that LSU have both outstanding academic programs and athletic programs. He hired the stars of academe, people like Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks in English, people who changed the course of the way the world studied literature and whose books are still used in the best classrooms of the nation. And he hired coaches who assured a good game on Saturday afternoons. According to an old story, when the President of LSU began taking on airs unbecoming a president of an educational institution (He bought some race horses, and his wife strung electrical lights in the garden of the president’s home), Long dashed off a short, all-business note to that individual—“Douse them lights and sell them plugs.”

    Would to God, we could find and elect a governor of Louisiana who demanded what Long demanded at LSU and every other university in the state.


  14. Twain says:

    Maybe one day we will have a school of which the football team can be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Michael Wade says:

    Forgive me if someone covered this in the replies above. If that microfilm in that dank basement is attacked by mold, much of the information on it is going to be rendered illegible. It happened over in Lafayette in Dupre LIbrary some years ago.


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  18. jon says:

    Let me reverse your thinking real quick. The swim pool and the track indoor are the 2 worse facilities in the SEC. However, LSU has the nicest business school building in the SEC. The point is that there are way too many building on campus to make them all state of the art, there has to be compromises.

    The state is underfunded and the governor can only cut spending in two areas, as we all know one is higher education. This is actually a much bigger problem at the state congress level. Not setting taxes and spending levels that put education at a priority has put us in a bad situation.

    Other than that, I do agree, it is sad that the school cannot get more in private donations, the endowment is a joke. If there is one building on campus though that I would like to have the least amount of money spent on it, in this day and age, is the library. With the technology available today, people can do more and more online so the dollar that is spent libraries gets less and less in return. I rather that money get spent on classrooms, professors, and research.


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