The Warburg Institute in London, home to an extraordinary library, is facing the greatest challenge in its history: a plan to merge the resource with other libraries at the University of London. I've only just heard about this (thanks to scholars on the UK early modern network) but my first thought is that such a measure would be nothing short of tragic for world scholarship; it would destroy the library's unique character also.
Equally bad is a proposed scheme to change the Warburg catalogue so that it conforms to the University of London's own. All this is not only an insult to its founder, Aby Warburg, but the legions of scholars who use the resource and value it highly.
In a Bloomberg article , Martin Gayford writes:
The problems are various. University of London policies decree that all libraries come under common management, and the Warburg has been merged into a combined "School of Advanced Study." Subsequently the University changed the way that it allocated costs for rent.
"The consequence of this was that whereas historically we paid between 20 percent and 30 percent of our grant for our premises, we now pay more than 60 percent," according to Professor Hope. "It has plunged us into an annual deficit of half a million pounds ($765,000) out of a turnover of 2 million pounds that is completely unsustainable." The costs can only be reduced by destroying the character of the library. This seems to conflict with the terms of the original gift, that the institute would be maintained "in perpetuity." As Hope insists, "there is an overwhelming scholarly consensus that it ought to be left as it is. You can get further in a week in the Warburg Library than in a month elsewhere." To lose this unequalled source of inspiration and discovery would be a cultural disaster.
The director of the Warburg, Charles Hope, and his colleagues are seeking legal advice, so it looks like we're in for a long struggle. Yet another example of misguided bureaucrats tinkering with our educational institutions and damaging intellectual culture in the process. As John Lennon said in another context "how do you sleep?"