Sinking Flagship: A new look at LSU’s Middleton Library

 

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The ceiling of room 230-A of LSU’s Middleton Library

By Robert Mann

LSU’s Middleton Library is a disgusting dump. A building this deplorable would be an embarrassment to a developing country, but seems fine to Louisiana’s citizens and the big donors who give generously to athletics and other areas of the campus.

Official tours of the campus never escort high school students into the library, for obvious reasons. One look at this sad, neglected building by a potential recruit and the University of Alabama or Ole Miss would soon gain a new student.

In a previous post, I presented disturbing photos of the decrepit condition of the library on all five floors, particularly the basement, which floods regularly.

The more I look at the library, the worse it gets. Today, let’s look at room 230-A.

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Room 230-A of the Middleton Library

This is a room in a part of the building few students visit, unless they have a course in one of several classrooms on the second floor. Room 230-A hosts about five classes a day. They are courses in library usage and research for non-Library Science students.

Room 230-A, like much of the building, is appalling and an embarrassment. While it sports adequate furniture and decent computer equipment, this sad space says everything about the (minor) importance the state’s citizens and its political leadership assign to what goes on there.

Put another way, by the looks of Middleton Library, in general, and room 230-A, in particular, Louisiana’s citizens couldn’t care less about what happens in this building.

Ceiling tiles are missing. Many are stained. Most have collapsed and have been glued back in the most unsightly manner possible. The covers for nine of the 12 light fixtures in this room are missing. Four of the light fixtures do not work at all. The clock in the room is off by three hours.

Take a look at this room in the following pictorial presentation (I took these photos last Wednesday morning).

Would you pay good money to send your child to a university that requires him or her to attend classes in a room like this?

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Missing ceiling tiles in room 230-A of the Middleton Library

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Ceiling tiles and a broken light fixture in room 230-A of the Middleton Library

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One of the four light fixtures in room 230-A that does not work.

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Ceiling tiles and a broken light fixture in room 230-A of Middleton Library

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More ceiling tiles and broken light fixtures in room 230-A of the Middleton Library

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The ceiling of room 230-A in the Middleton Library

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Light fixture in room 230-A in LSU’s Middleton Library

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The ceiling of room 230-A in the Middleton Library

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It was actually 10:07 a.m. when I took this photograph.

Room 230-A isn’t the only part of the Middleton Library I overlooked in my earlier blog post. While I presented photos of the stained and damaged carpet on the third and fourth floors, I did not notice the crumbling flooring on the first and second floors.

In this part of the library, the linoleum tiles are so old that when they crack, they cannot be replaced with tiles that match those surrounding them. The result is an unsightly, haphazard design that, again, resembles something you’d find in some developing country. A library spokesperson subsequently explained

A library spokesperson subsequently explained the reason for replacement floor tiles, which are different from the original: asbestos. “The floor tiles in rooms 141, 126B, 109 (FTC), Gov docs (one of the areas that floods in the basements) and throughout the second floor DO have asbestos,” she said. “The floor tiles in those areas that are different colors and are newer do not. The first-floor lobby and the basement lobby were abated in the 90s. Ceiling tiles do not have asbestos, but the old adhesive does for them most likely does.”

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The second floor of LSU’s Middleton Library

 

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Mismatched and cracked floor tiles on the second floor of the Middleton Library

 

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Black tiles are used as replacements for broken beige tiles in the reference area of the Middleton Library on the first floor. This is not an intentional pattern. The black tiles were what was available at the time.

 

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The hall down from my office on the second floor of Hodges. This it what an intentional pattern of flooring tiles looks like.

 

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Tiles in the reference area of the Middleton Library on the first floor

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Cracked floor tiles in the reference area of the Middleton Library on the first floor

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From the reference area of the first floor of the Middleton Library

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Reference area of the first floor of the Middleton Library

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Reference area of the first floor of the Middleton Library

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14 Responses to Sinking Flagship: A new look at LSU’s Middleton Library

  1. Ann Burgin says:

    I wonder whether there is asbestos in those old broken floor tiles.

    Sent from my iPhone Ann Burg

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jechoisir says:

    I did not send my children to LSU because i wanted them to have the opportunity to work any place in the nation or world they wished. I didn’t want them always to consider the limitations before they considered the possibilities. I wanted them to have a broader, less provincial view of the world than a school known nationally for partying and drunkenness and football could provide. They had grown up in Louisiana, were descended from generations of Louisianians, and in the back of my mind I hoped they would do what their father and I had done—return to their native state to work. But I wanted them to encounter another way of thinking about life—a more positive, less Mediterranean Machiavillian way—than Baton Rouge afforded. Those pictures, juxtaposed with the ones shown in previous column of the Athletic facilities, show why I encouraged my children to look beyond our state’s flagship university. I assure you the brightest and best educated students in the state think the same way. When an ambitious student can gain admission to a university in Texas that will provide varied opportunities and some of the best state libraries in the nation and will at the same time afford a vibrant job market, why would he not take it? I hope people send print-outs of these columns to their state representatives and the alumni and governing boards of LSU. Our children should not have to look elsewhere for a positive, ambitious view of the world and a university that has remembers its mission is education, not entertainment. Thank you for calling to public attention the flagship school’s failure to address its mission.

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  3. rtmannjr says:

    Thank you. I am hoping these photos and the ones to come force a needed conversation. I’m afraid that it may be too late to save LSU from permanent mediocrity. Eight years — and, really, generations — of neglect have turned it into something that probably cannot be salvaged in our lifetimes.

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  4. Stephanie Campo says:

    I am an alumni of LSU and sorry to see such deplorable conditions at our best public university. How does LSU meet accreditation standards, fire safety and occupational hazards/safety requirements. Could the faculty and student senates and alumni associations provide any leverage for resolving this situation.

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  5. Andrew Sluyter says:

    Those of us who have been here since long before 2008 can still remember how much better it was before the current, decade-long, steady, massive, decline in state funding. I know it’s not 2018 yet but the state budget projections have snuffed out any light at the end of the tunnel. So it’s not hard to predict that it’s going to be a decade minimum before this downward spiral has a chance of reversing. I wish we had the “before photos” to compare to your “after photos.”

    I was at Tulane Friday, and it’s like night and day. My car did not hit pothole after pothole. The building I gave a talk in was well maintained, with functioning washrooms and a lack of the peeling paint, falling ceilings, missing lights, and broken floors that we have become accustomed to. I did not have time to go into Tulane’s library and have not done so for a few years now, but it looked great from the outside. And we are talking about a campus that was damaged by Katrina. I guess we’re also talking about a university that has a very different mission than LSU and charges what the market will bear for tuition. Funny, though, the faculty and students at my talk were much like those at LSU, with lots of bright minds, sharp questions, and insightful comments. So far LSU has managed to do more with less.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rtmannjr says:

      My sense is that the people who have remained at LSU love the institution and its students and are willing to give everything they can to make it the best experience for the students possible. As we both know, learning can occur in a crummy classroom. That’s one consolation that I cling to.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jechoisir says:

    Better than many, I know “learning can occur in a crummy classroom.” I watched that happen in an almost stunning way. But the crummy classroom does not encourage learning. It does not honor learning. It gives the message that what goes on in that classroom is not important. And unconsciously, we adjust our expectations of ourselves and of our school to expectations appropriate to our surroundings.

    Moreover, the quality and rigor that can take place in every classroom is only so good as the students in it. And Louisiana is losing its best-educated and its brightest minds to other states, thereby diluting the level of instruction possible in any classroom. Take a look online or in print at, say, The Princeton Review evaluation of the university. Compare that with the evaluations of the University of North Carolina, the University of Virginia, either of the major Texas universities, and a number of liberal arts colleges that award scholarships to our top students. See how many Nat’l Merit Scholars are among the freshman classes. What are the ACT/SAT scores of entering freshmen? Check how many students in four-year programs graduate in 4 years (39% at LSU—less than half!). Why would an ambitious student with top SAT scores be attracted to a university that has the dubious honor of being the biggest Party School in the nation?

    Yes, learning can take place in a crummy classroom, especially if the entire school is obviously stinting. But when students look at a mega-stadium that keeps growing and the facilities provided for athletics or other supposedly extra-curricular activities, they understand without conscious thought what the school honors. That understanding does not encourage quality in academics. It does not attract top faculty.

    The only way we will create a vibrant economy and an aspirational population is through quality education. Young people in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, even Georgia can look forward to top-level work in their states when they graduate from college. Don’t our children deserve the same opportunities?

    If alumni bombard their alumni organizations with complaints, students protest to administrators, and parents complaint repeatedly to their elected officials, the decay of buildings and education will continue at LSU. This is a time to ask alumni to come to the aid of the academic institution, to commit to making LSU something more than the top Party School in the nation. This is one thing that people of both parties ought to be able to agree upon.

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  7. rtmannjr says:

    I agree 1000% with what you say here.

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    • jechoisir says:

      Sometimes it is enough to point out problems so that people in a position to remedy those problems will be brought to act on them. I think this is one of those times. An informed journalist can know a lot about state budgets and allocations of university funds, but seldom is he privy to everything one needs to know to solve a problem. Socrates said he meant to be the gadfly on the rump of Athens, and in LA that is pretty much a full-time job. Of course, Athens appreciated his mission about as much as Louisiana officials probably appreciate Mr. Mann’s efforts.

      One might hope that once informed, students and alumni might demand reform, might ask to see the university’s mission statement, might ask for an official explanation of the situation, and what school officials are doing to redress the mess.

      Every citizen in Louisiana is a stakeholder in the states schools and universities. But most depend on others, the press mainly, to report the extent to which each is living up to its mission statement. A good alumni association would already have asked serious questions of LSU and state officials.

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  8. You’re starting to sound like the ex husband who knows all the flaws of the ex wife and wants to tell everyone who will listen. We get it it her not you. You are all bitch and no solution.

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