Individual Statements

UT Prof. Aloysius Martinich

“Dear All,

I’d like to add some questions and comments to Tom’s questions and information.

I have been bothered by the arguments that various administrators and spokespersons have been using to justify the removal of books from FAL, whether they end up in hell (pulped) or limbo (a storage facility which for all we know may also contain the Ark of the Covenant).

Books that are ragged from use are removed. So are books that have not been used for years. So whether a book is popular or unpopular out it goes. Only those receiving middling use remain.

Is it plausible that all 55,000 books were investigated according to these standards?

The criterion of regular use is dubious in itself. Migne’s Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca consists of hundreds of volumes, most of which may never have been used. But they are a treasure. And when I was doing research on Berengar of Tours 40 years ago, the only place to get his works at UT was in the Pat Lat.

Throwing out books that have not circulated is a defective criterion. Henry Roth’s CALL IT SLEEP (1934) sold 300 copies and was out of print for 30 years. UT does not own a copy of the 1934 edition. Did it ever? Was it deaccessioned? Books that people in the early 21st century consider insignificant, may be of enormous significance to people in the 22nd.

The idea that outdated books should be deaccessioned is also questionable. Successive editions have a history to tell about the development of a field, about what was considered important and what not and when.

I believe an administrator said that there was no reason to keep a book on personal finance from 1971; no reason unless someone wants to study what kind of advice was given to ordinary consumers.

Successive editions of Locke, Hume and other philosophers are compared by contemporary historians of philosophy to get a better idea of what philosophers held and how they came to a final position.

Until recently, books by 17th and 18th century women philosophers went largely unread. If they had existed only in the circulation collections, they would have been thrown away, to the substantial loss of philosophy.

Administrators says that space for storing books is quite limited; yet there is always space for a practice field for the football team or a dedicated soccer field, or a dedicated baseball field. The issue, it seems to me, concerns UT’s educational priorities more than limited space.

I believe it was a spokesperson for a library who said that what’s important about a book is its contents not the container. The ‘containers’ of 17th century books are important in their own right. Watermarks, the quality of the paper and paper from different stocks in the same book are important to scholars. Only in recent decades or so have students of Thomas Hobbes learned that rather than one edition of LEVIATHAN, there were three. And there is no one copy or copies that can be said to be of the first edition because of the nature of printing at the time. And scholars discovered this by studying the physical characteristics of various copies, all bearing the year ‘1651-.

We don’t know what physical aspects of a book may be important to future scholars or what they may show. (If nothing else, we must prevent the person who said that only the contents of a container are important from any involvement on an archaeological investigation.)

One of the administrators said that librarians know books. Do they know everything relevant to its value about every book? Do the scholars who use the books not have any information or judgment to contribute to keeping or tossing books?

When the books that were held in the UT Tower were moved to the new PCL library in the mid-1970s, one of the attractive features was its open stacks. All sorts of discoveries are made by looking for one book and coming upon several others with similar call numbers. That feature is lost when books are exiled.

I am currently thousands of miles away, and fear that at some point I may forget the above thoughts; so I have put them down here.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s