As a member of the University Planning Committee, I have been privileged over the last two years to spend a good deal of time with the firm that is developing a new Campus Master Plan for LSU.
A part of that plan is the eventual replacement of Middleton Library with a new, high-tech one “southeast of Tiger Stadium,” as your editorial notes. There is no doubt that LSU needs a number of better library facilities. However, what your editorial fails to note is that the replacement and removal of Middleton Library is not all that the new master plan envisions, nor should that be the only thing done, nor the first thing. You seem unaware that this “repeal and replace” idea (to bend the idea slightly to match another duality currently in the news) is not so simple as seeing a need, designating a site, finding the money, and then building. That mistake has been made repeatedly in the past, with the result that the campus has become something of a hodgepodge. Middleton Library itself is example number one. The new master plan (still being formulated) seeks (like its predecessor) to re-imagine LSU south and west of the Quad with numerous new buildings and green spaces — that is, as a unified whole integrated with the Quad and certain other features (but not all) of the present campus layout and with enough built space to accommodate foreseeable growth, much as the 1920s planning for the Quad attempted to do. It is my understanding that to build the new central library envisioned in the new plan, various small buildings will have to be removed and replaced, and only then can the new library be built and Middleton finally removed. In short, the cost (still being worked out) is not just for a library, but for doing what should be done to equip LSU for the rest of the 21st century, at least insofar as any of us can foresee its needs. In the 1920s and 1930s, Louisiana and LSU had leaders with the vision to insist on a unified campus design and with a willingness to use state revenues to bring that about. I hope that such men and women exist today and that they will also insist on an entire plan, not just a gaudy bauble plucked from it.
Paul E. Hoffman
LSU professor emeritus of history