August 9, 2002

Staff Editorial

As the University embarks on the Chicago Initiative, it is somewhat bewildering to hear that one of the biggest rooms in the University's figurative house is not in order: the Library System has been forced to freeze hirings in an effort to make budget.

The Chicago Initiative's $2 billion goal is divided between four "priorities," which, succinctly, are faculty, financial aid, science, and campus construction. The closest the Chicago Initiative's literature comes to mentioning the Library System is a pledge to provide Chicago faculty with the "best research tools and resources so they can continue to create knowledges that makes a lasting impact on the world." It's hard to say what that means—although it should involve the Libraries, in theory.

We here at the Maroon do not mean to critique the copywriters of the Chicago Initiative. Our gripe is this: The Chicago Initiative is a call for increased donations, and the Library, to put it simply, does not have enough money. There is no conflict herein. A department is short, so we are asking for more money. Simple enough. But there is a fundamental question raised by this. Why should alumni give money to Chicago when the University can't be bothered to allot enough money for crucial annual operations? Is this not somehow deeply wrongheaded?

The University has a lot of money, several billion dollars of it. Even with multiple billions, it's not feasible to give each department carte blanche—but there are some departments that must receive special consideration. We would rate the Library System as perhaps foremost among those departments. It is more than a place to study—it is the most important support structure for the community of scholars and instructors that the Chicago Initiative alludes to in grand fashion.

Just like every other support system here at the University of Chicago, the Library System should, within reason, receive as much money as it needs—it is a vital part of the educational apparatus of the University for all students and faculty. Give the University Library System the money it needs.