For the past two weeks I’ve gone HAM on Green Library. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, I’m sure plenty did not, but it’s time to do something different. Unlike the infinite number of graduate students regurgitating mashed peas and the post-structural musings of Foucault and Derrida like a group of abandoned babbling infants, I’m going to attempt something different. I’m going to offer a solution. I know, I know, who do I think I am? How could anyone possibly try to fix or change anything in this godforsaken hellhole of the post-modern dystopia? I’ll try my hand.
The problem: The Green Regime imposes power and surveillance by manually checking bags upon exiting the library.
My solution: Put electronic sensors in all of the books.
Radicality at its very essence. As we are all good market-driven-capitalist-consumption-drones, we understand that absolutely everything is economics. Everything. So, let’s build a case for the solution. It’s simple, no doubt. A total of fifty characters. You could almost post it a few times on your twitter. Put electronic sensors in all of the books of Green Library. Simple, yes. Easy? Let’s see.
There are around four million items in Green Library. How many of them need to have electronic pickups installed? I have no idea, nor do I have the patience to send a few emails to ask, because I’m clearly not an investigative journalist, but rather an armchair dilettante … if a grad student could afford an armchair. Beyond that though, how are we as students, faculty, and patrons to use the books while they undergo this massive undertaking? I don’t know, I’m also not a librarian. The solution is simple, executing the solution however, is complicated.
Here’s what I don’t want to happen. I don’t want money to be reallocated from Green’s budget to pay for an installation project of electronic sensors in Devil knows how many books. Here’s why.
Librarians don’t do what they do for the money and libraries are universally underfunded. Those are Coors Cold Hard Facts. There are plenty of very capable people that could be making a lot more money doing more lucrative things with their lives, but they have a higher calling (probably not many former business majors). Since the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, librarians have been storing information and helping people access that information. They even support open criticism of their own institutions from hecklers like me, in order to improve it for people like me. They don’t sound like the money-grubbing-power-wielding-rank-and-file-bureaucrat types.
This is what I do want. I do want money to be reallocated to the library’s budget for the very specific purpose of all of us never having to reveal the rancid entrails of our rucksacks to anybody but TSA. But where oh where could we ever find money to de-bureaucratize our establishment, while upgrading our library’s security? If only we had an exorbitant endowment comparable to national GDPs. If only our university was situated in a place of excessive, sinful, wealth. If only 27.8 billion dollars was enough.
Shamefully, it doesn’t seem to be enough. And in a full 180-degree contradiction, of which my ex-girlfriends attest I’m prone to, I’m over Green Library. It’s a cog in a larger machine. Does it excuse the banality of evil? Of the following of orders? Of the invasion of privacy and imposition of power and surveillance that deters students? (Confirmed by their emails from these past weeks) Wrong questions. Some better ones:
Why does the Humanities library, which is the largest and most trafficked library at one of the greatest universities on this planet, not have enough funding to get their system to rival local public libraries? (Yeah, Green has more stuff, but they also have a slightly bigger budget) How is it that the Humanities, which have shaped the world around us for thousands of years, are constantly being undermined and underfunded? How have we come to think that knowledge, the incorrigible vice we ourselves picked from the Tree, is enough, if it lacks wisdom? As if technology could save us from the atomic bomb, the machine gun, or the kindle. It can’t, but the Humanities can.
Where are we? At Stanford’s Mission Statement of 1885. And its purposes, to promote the public welfare by exercising an influence in behalf of humanity and civilization.
Green Library operates as the intellectual hub of our campus. People of all disciplines walk through those doors and they have their bags checked and they hate it. The heart and soul of our institution, our moral compass, our Humanities library, can do this no longer. I made a plea at the end of last week’s piece in hopes of crushing the infant of ignorance like the great god Shiva. The problem is known, and there is a solution. So how about you, University Budget Office, and you, Board of Trustees, and you, President Tessier-Lavigne, do something about it. Give ‘em some money and let your librarians do their godly work. Make it a goddamn campus emergency. Bureaucracy and the infringement of privacy should be cut off like Medusa’s head, because it is just as deadly, with patrons frozen just beyond the doors. It’s a kudzu vine, obfuscating the path to wisdom, deserving of annihilation in the form of a World War II flamethrower. Let us clear it away, and by ‘let us’ I mean ‘let you,’ because I’m an armchair dilettante, a grad student, a fool. But you, Budget Office, Board, and President, are not quixotic. You are rational, methodical, clear thinking people. You want your students to be engaged in all facets of their learning experience and grow in an environment both free of encumbrances and inhibitions. I’ve shown you something that, for all of its banality, challenges those goals. Will you do something about it? Doubtful, but you are no longer ignorant of it.
I’m off to find the next windmill.
– Jake Austin Zawlacki
Contact Jake Zawlacki at jazawlacki ‘at’ stanford.edu.