Who’s at the library?

Who spends time at the libraries on college campuses today? Admittedly, I should spend much more time there. It’s a good study environment (not perfect, but good), and certainly the best type of place in terms of availability of scholarly resources. Often times I simply read or work on a project at home, but if I’m in a particularly studious mood, the library is one place to which I always consider going. Historically, libraries have always been associated with knowledge and learning.

As I look around Ellis Library (the central library at the largest university in Missouri, the University of Missouri-Columbia) at the moment, it is easy to notice what in my experience seems to be something of a theme on college campuses. Asians are disproportionately represented. You’ve heard the term “under-represented?” Well, Asians are “over-represented” at the library. And I say more power to them. (Such terms are often loaded with politically correct assumptions, biases and objectives; I use the terms hear only to make a point).

They make up a small minority of the student population, but here today, Asians seem to be a majority, or at least a solid plurality. Without a doubt, they are present here in greater percentages than they are in the student population at large. And having studied now at three different institutions of higher learning, of three different kinds (private, public and community college), in three different states (Indiana, Missouri and Kansas), I can now say that in my own personal experience, this is a somewhat common pattern.

More on this later. But I wanted to get the ball rolling on this now, in the moment.

What are the implications of this phenomenon? Well, some are so obvious that they hardly need be said. At the same time, I can think of a few equally obvious conclusions that if said, might be considered politically incorrect. For now, I’ll let you think about it. What correlation does a particular student population’s frequency (or infrequency, if relevant) of library usage have with their academic performance? Why is that significant and what sort of role should any conclusions we reach on this question play in the ongoing racial dialogue that we are constantly admonished must take place?

Note: Minor edits for style on around July 18.

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Filed under Education, Race

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