“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” ―Walter Cronkite
By Robert Mann
To the LSU class of 2017: Congratulations on surviving college. Next week, your parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, and even aunts and uncles, will descend on the LSU campus to watch you march across the stage to receive your diploma.
That morning, the family might join you for one last omelet at Louie’s. Or brunch at the Faculty Club or dinner at the Chimes or Juban’s. Maybe, for old times sake, you’ll swing through the Student Union or drop by the bookstore for some LSU gear.
Whatever the case, please consider reserving ten minutes to take your family on a tour through the disgusting, decrepit Middleton Library.
Show them the repulsive 40-year-old tables and the grimy chairs where you studied. Point out the carpet stains that were there before your dad was a freshman. Be sure to walk through the bathrooms, which would shame even the most inattentive gas station attendant.
Point out the dangling ceiling tiles and the missing floor tiles. And don’t forget to take them downstairs to the basement where the government documents are housed and which doubles as a wading pool after a heavy rain.
Like most people who don’t work or study at LSU, they’ve had no reason to inspect the school’s buildings, which are ostensibly pristine.
Why would your mom and dad think LSU’s library is any less impressive than the edifices that grace most major public universities? How could they know they sent you to a school without a decent library building in a state governed by public officials who have given up on funding higher education?
How will they know how much the buildings on campus have decayed if you don’t show them?
Oh, and here’s another reason you should taking your parents and grandparents to the library:
Because it’s all you’ve ever known, you may not realize what a disgraceful, crumbling campus this is. See it, at least once, through their eyes.
You may not have visited the sparking campuses of the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia or Ole Miss to see what universities look like in states that value education.
I was reminded of this last week while at the Hayden Library on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. It’s a modern building, recently renovated and expanded. Unlike LSU’s library, it features clean, ample spaces for students to study and research. It’s the sort of building students find inviting and where they want to spend time.
The ASU library, however, is much like the LSU library in one significant respect: It’s a building that signals the importance the state’s citizens and its leaders assign to higher education.
In Louisiana’s case, however, the signal is we don’t much care.
Maybe you and your parents won’t be near the library. That’s ok. Take them through the Huey Long Field House or Lockett Hall. Or just pick out any old building with crumbling ceiling tiles, nasty carpet or no hot running water. More than likely, you’ll pass by two or three of them on your way to commencement.
While you’re at it, be sure to show them, by contrast, what the people of Louisiana consider the most important part of the campus and the real reason for its existence. Show them the palace that is Tiger Stadium, or walk them through the new basketball practice facility.
And be sure to point out the LSU Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes, where the school lavishes student athletes with the kind of comfortable, well-appointed spaces for studying and tutoring that other students are never offered.
Before you leave campus, please help understand your parents understand what you already know: As the prominent educator Harold Howe once said, “What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education.”