“The best thing about America is its universities. Not Harvard, Yale, e tutti quanti: though marvelous, they are not distinctively American – their roots reach across the ocean to Oxford, Heidelberg, and beyond. Nowhere else in the world, however, can boast such public universities. You drive for miles across a godforsaken midwestern scrubscape, pockmarked by billboards, Motel 6s, and a military parade of food chains, when – like some pedagogical mirage dreamed up by a nineteenth century English gentleman — there appears… a library! And not just any library: at Bloomington, the University of Indiana boasts a 7.8-million-volume collection in more than nine hundred languages, housed in a magnificent double-towered mausoleum of Indiana limestone.

A little over a hundred miles northwest across another empty cornscape there hoves into view the oasis of Champaign-Urbana: an unprepossessing college town housing a library of over ten million volumes. Even the smallest of these land grant universities—the University of Vermont at Burlington, or Wyoming’s isolated campus at Laramie—can boast collections, resources, facilities, and ambitions that most ancient European establishments can only envy.”

The Memory Chalet, Tony Judt

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4 Responses to “From UD’s Christmas Reading:”

  1. theprofessor Says:

    Illinois is up to 12 million volumes.

    Indiana desperately needs another tower or other expansion to its library.

  2. Dave Stone Says:

    Or, for example, the cookbook collection at Kansas State University: “a collection containing over 15,000 cookbooks and related volumes, ranked among the foremost in the nation. With works dating from 1487 to the present and reflecting several languages and cultures, the collection holds many works considered rare, including some which are not available anywhere else in the world.”

  3. William Found Says:

    While the Wells Library at IU Bloomington boasts a fantastic collection accessible to all comers, the situation at UIUC might properly be described as either deplorable or shameful. As Mr. Judt would have quickly discovered had he attempted to actually enter the hallowed Main Bookstacks on the UIUC campus, no members of the public, whether state of Indiana residents or not, are welcome at this “public” university. Sadly, even a ten (or is it twelve?) million volume library is of essentially zero value when access is denied.

  4. William Found Says:

    Of course I meant “Illinois” not “Indiana” residents in the above comment.

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