Think of the Children!

Some end-of-the-week reflections on the uses of college students as human shields for stupid decisions:

April 28, 2011

Some end-of-the-week reflections on the uses of college students as human shields for stupid decisions:

Three faculty members at Mount Hood Community College in Oregon are being laid off. They are librarians. In fact, they are the only librarians at the college. On its face, these layoffs are a response to a budget crunch, but the librarians feel they are being targeted (in the midst of a fierce labor dispute) because they objected when the administration put faculty ID numbers on an open website. These ID numbers are used for authentication to access library databases remotely and are linked to patron records that tell who's reading what. Openly publishing these numbers violates license agreements and Oregon’s public records law. You'd think administrators would be relieved that someone called attention to the problem and came up with a fix. But no; the librarians have to go, though the college might bring in cheaper non-faculty, non-union replacements. A spokesman for the college said “we will continue to operate the libraries with student success as our number one priority.”

Somehow, I doubt it was students who came up with the idea that firing librarians would improve their opportunities for learning.

At the University of Denver, a planned library renovation was second-guessed by trustees and high-level administrators for reasons that are, to me at least, entirely unclear. The original plan, worked out by the library with input from students and faculty, was to store the majority of the collection during the renovation, then return most of the collection, using compact shelving to open up new spaces up for socializing, collaborative learning, and research while keeping around 20% of the collection offsite. Without consultation, people who neither teach nor do research in the library decided that 80% of the collection should remain in storage and claimed this action was being taken on behalf of students. I mean, everyone knows they don't want books cluttering up their learning spaces.

They didn't actually ask the students. To go by the comments on the story, at least some of them are insulted and angry.

Once again, the bell tolls for reading. This happens a lot. The Mental Floss blog ("where knowledge junkies get their fix") reports that OMG! OMG! A whopping 42% of college students never read another book after college! And 80% of families haven’t read a book in over a year! And a majority of new books are never read all the way through! These are the kind of statistics that people love to cite and so they do. Unfortunately, these particular stats appear to be completely bogus - yet they are quoted and repeated not only in blog posts but in a variety of publications. These are the kind of mutant statistics that Joel Best will tell you have a tendency to live on. (He'll also tell you interesting things about threatened children.) These are the kind of statistics that influence people who make decisions about libraries. Why bother buying books for the dumbest generation? They don't read! Let’s quit buying those darned things and clear out the stacks so we can brag about how cool and innovative we are.

Just don’t spoil it all by actually asking students what they think. I mean, they're just kids. What do they know about anything, anyway?


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