The third floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library is due for renovation starting in July 2021 with a projected completion date of fall 2024. The Graduate Student Organization (GSO) has been informed that the books found on this floor will be temporarily relocated to an off-campus collection management facility for the duration of the renovation.
Unfortunately, the third floor presently houses most of the books that are germane to my field of study. I am thus coming to terms with the reality — two years into a Ph.D. program in comparative literature — that I will be expected to complete the heretofore most intellectually demanding period of my scholastic career without a library. I find myself in battle without the necessary armor. Forlorn and unarmed. At the time of my application to this school, the promotional material for Harpur College failed to include the incredibly important detail that my Ph.D. studies are to be completed without immediate and direct physical access to the material I will be required to study to fulfill the requirements of the degree.
Students in other disciplines might not be aware of the extent to which books are necessary to the work that humanities students and faculty do. Admittedly, the horrors of a life without a library may seem arcane to some. I ask that you consider, however briefly, the degree of difficulty one might incur studying chemistry without access to a laboratory, or being a computer science major without a computer. Consider the more relevant metaphor of being an aspiring baseball player without a baseball, and in the absence of a state-of-the-art baseball facility.
Recent requests for student input on the renovations of the third floor of Bartle Library have extended almost exclusively to issues of design. Moreover, the request for student input came long after the decisions to relocate the third-floor books to an off-campus facility and to permanently shrink library bookshelf space by 30 percent had already been made. The Student Library Advisory Committee’s (SLAC) primary interest seems to lie in student color-coding preferences and the number of available electrical outputs. While the choice between shamrock and emerald green may be of critical importance, there are those of us for whom books are what distinguish a set of buildings from an institution of higher learning.
It is perfectly reasonable that Binghamton University would respond to a problem of overcrowding by exploring ways to expand its physical space. However, the decision to remove our primary sources of knowledge to solve this problem displays a gross lack of imagination and a disregard for a section of the graduate student body already struggling to juggle the demands of teaching and fellowship procurement in a highly competitive academic environment.
It is with a deep sense of regret that I register my disappointment at the deliberate decision to disregard the educational needs of students like myself. In the same breath, I would caution prospective students — especially graduate students in the humanities and affected fields — against the perils of false advertising. While a more elaborate case can and should be made for the value of literacy, the practice of reading and the societal benefit of critical thinking toward an engaged citizenry at a time when this country is in such deep political and intellectual turmoil, I cannot make it here. Suffice to say that I hope the incremental move to vacate the library of books in favor of play space is worth the cost.
Ziyana Lategan is a second-year Ph.D. student studying comparative literature.