The library at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (aka “Cal Poly Pomona”) is destroying books by the thousands as part of a nearly $60 million renovation project which will add, among other new facilities, a full-service Starbucks Coffee. The rampant disposal of nearly 30,000 books, journals, and serials “that had not been used for at least 10 years” and threats against the 300,000 books which have been kept in storage since the renovation began has prompted the action of one lone librarian.
Librarian Bruce Emerton is doing his best to spread the word about this pointless destruction of valuable printed knowledge and petition for “a halt to the disposal of books, journals and other printed materials and an independent audit of all items that have been discarded,” but has been stopped short of achieving significant publicity by a “cease and desist” order from the California State University system. Apparently, using a California State University’s name without permission is considered a “misdemeanor”, which somehow gives them the right to silence his right to free speech.
Emerton’s recent actions towards halting the destruction of thousands of printed publications has caused him to be threatened with legal action from the university and to loose the support of his colleagues who “are afraid to be seen anywhere around [him].”
I am infuriated that the university would put the importance of a Starbucks over the knowledge with which it was built to enrich us, infuriated that they would deny Emerton his right to free speech, and infuriated that they would even suggest that these books “expire” when they “[have] not been used for at least 10 years.”
How do they even plan to measure the use of these books? Hundreds of books are read each day in the university library without being checked out. There is no way to measure that.
Books and other printed publications represent unalterable knowledge and can’t be given an expiration date. Libraries were created to protect that knowledge, not to judge the books based on their history of use, but to make them accessible to those who would one day need them. One day, there may be no more books, but today is not that day and I hope that I never see it.
For a deeper perspective, I invite you to read Sarah’s thoughts on the issue.