EducationHigher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Anyone else have trouble with libraries?

I really don’t like my home institution’s library.

Even writing those words feels like some kind of blasphemy. Our library is an object of basically universal admiration in my department, with glowing praise from faculty and students alike. I can just picture the scandalised reactions of my colleagues should they ever find out my true feelings on the matter, which are (of necessity) a closely guarded secret lest I become some kind of academic pariah (or risk an openly antagonistic relationship with our library rather than just a frosty one).

But hey, it’s not like I’m the one who started it. For some reason, they just seem to be out to get me.

Over the last several years there have just been so many problems, failures, and oversights that it’s become impossible for me not to take it personally.

Is it because I spend so little time there? Is it because, while in student government, I vetoed their plan to spend our graduate society’s annual contribution on fancy furniture rather than research materials?* Is it because I wrote a negative course review for a class taught by one of the librarians? Is it because I deliberately snubbed them in the acknowledgements of my MA thesis, since their failure to actually fill out an order for a source I requested (despite multiple conversations and assurances) cost me $500 in travel to get it myself? I suppose I’ll never know.

But it really is getting ridiculous. Here are a few more examples:

I have been charged in excess of a hundred dollars for three separate items that were lost after I returned them (all subsequently found misshelved, sometimes months later).

When we ordered an absolutely critical primary source for my dissertation, it took six months to arrive from the source library in Europe and then sat in processing for a year and a half, where no one could seem to locate it.

When they promised to write a publisher about acquiring something else for my research (with funds specifically set aside for these kind of acquisitions**), two months later (again after a few conversations) my inquiry about the status of the order was met with a “well we’re busy so we never actually started it and perhaps you should do it yourself.” Gee, thanks.

And most recently a critical reference book listed as “on the shelf” was apparently lost internally during a remodel some time in the last few years. At least it’s still in print, but there goes another $200 for me since they are “looking for it” and won’t ILL it and I need it now.

What gives? Why am I the only person in the department having this experience? How can it be that literally every important thing I have ever asked them to do has been mishandled to the point of critical (and often expensive) failure?

So my question to you all is: have you ever had these kinds of experiences with a library or similar organisation? Is anyone else just longing for the day when absolutely everything is available online and this kind of bullshit will cease to be?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

*We instead set up a really cool research acquisitions fund for graduate students to order or rent things that they need for research but the library could not otherwise afford or justify acquiring. I think that beats fancy chairs, but what do I know?

**Same fund as above!

Featured image: Joe Crawford

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal ( if you like his work!

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