LSU grads, on your last day on campus, give your parents a tour of the library

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” Walter Cronkite


A familar scene in LSU’s Middleton Library

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.


The swimming pool at LSU’s Huey Long Field House

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.

Hayden Library

The Hayden Library at Arizona State University in Tempe

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.


Inside the Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes at LSU

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.”

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8 Responses to LSU grads, on your last day on campus, give your parents a tour of the library

  1. Vonnie Good says:

    Bob, I have been forwarding your columns to my family. My heart continually breaks for my home state.

    On this particular issue, I have a personal memory.

    As much as I love a Tiger football, I will never forget when we couldn’t get a second electron microscope in the microbiology department, but they could add another tier of seats to the football stadium. Again, I love all that, but it is supposed to be about academics. I find this heartbreaking. Like so much in Louisiana.

    Thanks for continuing to write fabulous and important columns.

    Vonnie Borie Good

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Richard Daschbach says:

    Like I done told ya, you are a brave man.
    My planned excursion to Louisiana has been re-scheduled for early September.
    I hope we can get together.

    Peace and health,

    Richard Daschbach


  3. co14ner says:

    Is there a way that your first photo of Middleton would post with the article when re-posting on fb? Otherwise with the photo Cox communications – it throws the whole message off.


  4. Michael Wade says:

    I am glad that you have revisited the Middleton Library issue. It’s shameful condition is exceeded only by the shamefulness of Louisiana’s state legislators who lack any sense of shame, not to mention moral fiber, a commitment to the people of Louisiana, and, frankly, the brainpower and fortitude to even try to do any better. One wonders how many of them are LSU alumni. Perhaps a majority? Gone Tigers?


  5. NotEdOrgeron says:

    LSU athletics not only pay for themselves, but also give a sizeable amount of money back to the academics. It’s not as though the school is intentionally giving all its resources to athletics.


    • Stephen Winham says:

      Believe it or not, I think most people know this. It does not, however, excuse the way the state of Louisiana inadequately funds academics – the ostensible reason LSU exists.


  6. franjaserra says:

    Also visit the basement where LSU keeps all thesis and disertations in those big rolling file cabinets.. yours will be filed there too.


  7. Bob Crowley says:

    The last administration to fund higher ed was Governor Foster’s. The blather about LSU football contributing to the commonweal is just that-blather. If the football coach would get political something MIGHT happen. If LSU is in such deplorable shape and it is, it makes you wonder how Southern and Grambling are doing.


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