WE ARE a group of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Texas at Austin who care passionately about the future of UT Austin’s magnificent research libraries.
– A library is more than a storage space for books.
– A library is a living space of discovery with the potential to transform society.
– Digitization and remote storage facilities take away our freedom to discover.
– A library without on-site books is not a library.
– The arts and humanities contribute value to society by creating knowledgeable, skilled, empathetic global citizens.
– The relationship between the arts, humanities, industry, and sciences is not a zero-sum game.
In a democracy, everyone has a right to knowledge. But knowledge depends on access to sources. We believe UT Austin is one of the nation’s great research universities in large part because of its libraries, which make books available to any student or researcher at any time. In our libraries, we can discover what we did not know we were looking for, simply by going on a walk through the stacks. The experience of being physically present in the stacks is fundamental to the process of accidental revelation and discovery that lies behind all great scholarship. Open stacks are particularly important at a state university serving students who have not necessarily had access to rich library holdings. Recalling books from a predetermined online catalog places an intermediary – an algorithm – between researchers and knowledge, and thus profoundly shapes and impoverishes our access to knowledge. Removing academics from stacks is akin to removing scientists from labs. It is crippling to research.
WE BELIEVE in the value of digital resources. However, digital sources are inherently short-lived and unstable, and remain untested as long-term means of access and preservation. We ask: what “version” of this digital work will be available to a scholar or student living 300 years from now? We ask: why do our digital-native students still prefer the printed page? We ask: how would a scientist fare without their laboratory? Libraries are the laboratories for the arts and humanities. Initiatives to merge the arts and sciences are admirable, but should not replace current resources for our long-demonstrated academic excellence.
It is our libraries that have enabled and fostered that excellence.
WE STAND in opposition to current proposals to downsize library holdings en masse and to send our books to remote storage. We stand in opposition to moving books from our disciplinary libraries to the main Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL). We stand in opposition to the growing trend of corporate models of governance and decision-making. It is the commodification of higher education that underlies decisions like the removal of our libraries.
We believe libraries will never make money. But they will make great societies.
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