The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 8, Number 6
Dec 1984


Rehabilitation of Book Abusers

Reprinted with permission from the September Midwest Cooperative Conservation Program Newsletter, which is issued from the Norris Library, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901.

Every library faces the threat of vandalism and mutilation of its collections. Mutilated books present an additional burden on a library's preservation and conservation facilities. Southern Illinois University approaches the mutilation of library materials as an education problem. Students caught damaging library books are required to assist the library in book conservation. Students are given the choice of working in the conservation department for a set length of time or being suspended from the University. Students who choose to conserve books are assigned tasks in Morris Library's conservation department. It is hoped the work will teach students to view library materials as cultural artifacts possessing valued integrity and not as throwaway items or clip sheets.

The following is an excerpt from a letter by Bruce R. Swinburne, SIU's Vice President for Student Affairs, to a student who was caught destroying library materials.

"The destruction of library materials constitutes a violation of the code that is especially repugnant to all those who love learning and are a part of the University family. It is fortunate that these materials may be able to be replaced. However, that does not take away from the seriousness of the offense. To a very great extent, the transmission of learning takes place through the printed word in this society. Books and other media which are used to transmit the culture from one generation to another are especially sacred within a university community and within our great library. Your particular violation of the code was not just against the library but was against all the members of this community. Despite the seriousness of the offense, we are also as a University community sensitive to the concerns and needs of individual members of the University family, and as such it is my decision that you will be allowed to remain in the University predicated on the following conditions.

"...You will assist the Conservation Librarian in whatever way she directs in restoring University Library materials. You will contribute no less than six hours a week through September and October. It is my hope that from this experience you will gain a respect for library materials and for the heroic efforts made by those in the Conservation Laboratory to maintain precious materials for generations which will follow."

Additionally, the student was placed on a one-year disciplinary probation and paid for the cost of the damaged materials.

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