Opinion: Letter to the Editor

By Robin Wagner, Dean of the Library

To the editor:

This is in response to your guest writer’s whining and tedious column about all the things that do not satisfy him at Gettysburg College (Gettysburgian magazine, March 2023, p. 10). I guess I should breathe a sigh of relief that the worst thing he can say about the library is that it is ugly. 

But, come on! Didn’t anyone ever explain to him the difference between a package and the wrapping paper? It’s what’s inside that matters.

We might not please the writer’s aesthetic, but inside these so-labeled ugly walls are beautiful things—like new books, current magazines, and 24-hour access to hundreds of full text databases on every topic imaginable. How about smart, helpful research librarians to assist you with your assignments? Competent and friendly staff at the front desk?  Free printing?  Free coffee, tea and hot chocolate at night?

I could go on.  Concerts once a month at noon. Study breaks with cupcakes and sprinkles. Peer research mentors.  Computers if you don’t have one, and charger cords if you do. Fancy new printers. Umbrellas for a rainy day. An amazing Special Collections with a hands-on philosophy seldom found in colleges of our size. 

So what if the furniture is a little dated?  

On that point, specifically—give me a break.  A doctor’s office from 2003? First, how is your columnist an expert on decor from when he was a toddler? And, by the way, he is seriously off-the-mark by 22 years!

At the risk of buying into his argument that Gettysburg College is decrepit and disgusting, I’ll clue him in on something. We librarians, being frugal types, prefer to spend students’ tuition dollars on books and databases and media streaming — not glitzy furnishings. 

Musselman still has much of its original furniture. That’s circa 1981. The author should get to know his interior design, before comparing us to a medical waiting room from the early 2000s. That’s harsh.  

Over the years we’ve put new laminate on the tables and reupholstered the chairs. You can’t beat the 1980s for solid wood furniture. This stuff is unbreakable. So, we might not qualify in the writer’s pretty, high-end world, but that doesn’t make us anti-modern. 

Just the opposite. We’ve got all the up-to-date research materials you will ever need to write a first class paper. If we don’t have a book or article onsite, we can get it in an hour or a day through interlibrary loan. This is available via our modern computer network, with flexible software and terrific IT support. None of that sounds like we’re being held back by his silly catch-phrase “historical inhibitions,” does it? Your columnist should try to refrain from judging a book by its cover.   

Finally, let me invite your guest columnist to curl up in one of the library’s ugly but comfy chairs. Take a nap like many of his classmates do on a regular basis. Do a real comparison with his doctor’s office furnishings and let me know where he gets the better snooze.   

This letter to the editor is in response to this opinion: https://gettysburgian.com/2023/04/opinion-gettysburg-college-is-stuck-in-the-past/ 

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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  1. Why is a dean of the college punching down on a student? Yes, the other column was poorly written, not funny (if that was the goal) and not incredibly persuasive (again, if that was the goal) but an adult member of the college’s administration shouldn’t be calling out a student. It was one line in the other piece. If the dean has a problem, then they should reach out to the student directly.

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    • class of ’02 alumn I think there is nothing wrong by the dean responding to an opinion about her department. Its not punching down, its a coherent and persuasive response. If we cant have open dialogue in the college how are we supposed to advance the mission of the Gettysburgian.

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  3. This so wonderfully articulated my exact thoughts while reading the original piece. While I’m sure the original columnist was not entirely ill-intentioned in his critique, we should still insist that prudence check one’s own ego-driven contrarianism.

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  4. Finally, someone who tells it like it is!

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