Library Today: Vandalism in the libraries must stop

Library Today: Vandalism in the libraries must stop

From the UST libraries

Over the last year, library staff members have noticed more incidences of vandalism against library print materials – from writing in the margins of books and periodicals, to cutting them up for class work, to ripping out chapters and articles. In response, the libraries have been working with the Dean of Students Office and Public Safety to ensure that library users understand the gravity and consequences of their actions. See the revised Vandalism Policy on the UST libraries Web site.

The UST libraries’ vision statement describes the libraries as “the intellectual and technological crossroads of information resources, teaching and learning at UST.” We think of the libraries as the equivalent of the village square and as a “marketplace” of ideas. Each of these metaphors conveys a sense of community – a place where people gather and study independently; in groups, informally and formally; and, in general, mix with each other as they communicate and exchange ideas.

The notion of the library in which the community jointly owns resources and shares them with each other is a notion that depends on a kind of contract that each member of the community honors. This social contract expects the community to treat the jointly owned property in such a way that it is available for the benefit of everyone. We in the library believe that this fundamental principle that commonly held information should be freely available to an entire community is essential to the quality of education at the university, and in a sense, to the quality of life in our larger society.

When a member of the community removes or destroys library materials, it is a violation of that social contract and it deprives others of the benefit of a shared resource. Library collections are developed, in part, to preserve ideas for the future. Librarians take seriously their responsibility to collect, preserve and circulate these important materials. The system is unique in society; it is civilized and it works as long as the community respects and honors the basic principle of commonly owned and maintained resources.

“Respect for the universality of human and civil rights, their inalienability and indivisibility,” says Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, in his book Summer Meditations, “is of course possible only when one understands – at least in the philosophical sense – that one is ‘responsible for the whole world’ and that one must behave the way everyone ought to behave, even though not everyone does.”