A new library at Louisiana’s flagship public university won’t be opening tomorrow, next week — or even next year.
But we’re encouraged that, at the very least, LSU officials have started to make public plans for a replacement library at the university’s Baton Rouge campus.
The LSU Board of Supervisors recently reviewed a proposed master plan for the university that calls for tearing down Middleton Library, an architectural Goliath off LSU’s iconic quadrangle, and relocating the library to a new building southeast of Tiger Stadium.
That sounds grand. The only real problem is money, which is in scarce supply at LSU except at the athletic department, which lives lavishly on self-generated revenues.
Building a new LSU library will take millions of dollars, and as state government stands in yet another tide of red ink, those dollars don’t seem destined to arrive anytime soon. There’s been talk of getting private donors to help, but that’s a tall order, too.
Even so, we hope that interest in a new LSU library gains momentum. Relocating the library — and tearing down the old one — would be a welcome chance to remedy an eyesore.
The self-consciously modern Middleton, planted next to Italianate buildings that were constructed in the 1920s, has always looked strikingly out of place, like a spaceship hovering in a Roman piazza.
But beyond the question of aesthetics, which is no small issue in a world where curb appeal helps attract new students, there are other reasons to rally around the idea of a new library at LSU. The present building is in scandalously bad shape, and that should be a source of embarrassment for everyone in Louisiana. Press reports last year documented Middleton’s sorry decline. The building leaks so much that many reference materials are covered in plastic to keep them dry, and some employees wear rubber boots inside during rainstorms because water pools around their feet.
As the state has endured round after round of budget cuts over the years, maintenance has usually been the first thing to go.
Such neglect is the legacy of a government that isn’t nurturing its best and brightest. Little wonder that so many of them leave to seek opportunity elsewhere.
Much has changed since Middleton opened in 1958. In the wake of the digital revolution, students do much of their research online. But they still need specialized reference materials that only a library can provide — and expert guidance to navigate the collection.
A new library at LSU must be a priority. We hope the current plans become a reality sooner rather than later.