Letter to the editor: What do we call a university without books?

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In recent weeks, VTDigger has carried many letters and op-ed pieces concerning the intended removal of book-filled libraries from campuses of the Vermont State University. I would like to comment on a matter of nomenclature associated with this issue: what to call an educational institution that does not have a library.

A plaque on the wall at the entrance to UVM’s Howe Library displays prominently the following words of Thomas Carlyle: “The true university of these days is a collection of books.”

If Carlyle is right, then I guess the answer to the question, “What do we call a university without books?” should be: “A university without books is an oxymoron.”

Unfortunately, using the word oxymoron in the name would raise a bit of a problem. The letter “U” in the abbreviation “VSU,” for “Vermont State University,” cannot simply be replaced by an “O,” as in the abbreviation “VSO,” for “Vermont State Oxymoron,” because “VSO” is the abbreviation for “Vermont Symphony Orchestra.” I am sure that this excellent organization would not want to share its abbreviation with a bookless university, or oxymoron. 

My suggestion for getting around this problem would be to drop the word “University” out of the name “Vermont State University,” and rename the bookless institution simply “Vermont State.”

Thinking about these matters has made me come up with a related and similarly excellent idea for saving money: Maybe the Vermont Symphony Orchestra should get rid of all those musical instruments and musicians, and replace them with a loudspeaker! Since many recordings of music are available, concert-goers could still enjoy their evenings at the theater.

Something worth considering, n’est-ce pas?

Lewis M. Holmes



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