Calling All Bibliofolk: Resist the Transformers, Save UCI's Bookstore, and Take Back the University, Too.
Here, then, a slightly shortened version of Chihara's excellent, angry and thoughtful "The Real Price of Transforming the Bookstore." For her citations and links. and the complete essay, go later this week to the nifty site Avidly. Meanwhile...
|This week's guest blogger|
|Under new management|
At UCI we have our own "transformation" underway. The administration is killing the bookstore. Long posters in the window store are festooned with images of what seem to be anteaters in Transformers costumes. A campus-wide email trumped a "Bookstore Transformation": "We are also developing a new brand to reflect these and other transformations occurring across the store!" (italics in original). The administration's proxy, who signed the email as "Stacey Murren, Interim Director," has prompted many of the long-term staff at the bookstore to "retire." This is the primary "transformation" thus far, along with a decrease in actual books for sale. The last few author readings were held in a humanities building, not in the store, in protest. A management theorist, it seems, Murren required that the staff take personality tests.
|New bookstore staff test|
|Famous writers dig bookstore readings|
But Astrella has been forced into retirement and the Author Series is no more. It's not clear what the new brand will be. Perhaps we will have a sexy Electronic Text Store or an Enhanced Sweatshirt Stand, or a hot Pretty Please Buy Here Instead of Amazon Spot. In any case, the new brand will no longer focus on those antiquated, nostalgic repositories of human memory and learning, those collections of mere words, those symbols of liberal arts and research and education: Books.
On the one hand, administrators like to tell Michelle Latiolais, the co-director of UCI's MFA in Creative Writing, that the storied writing program is a "jewel in the crown." But on the other hand, those same administrators continue to support decision like the one to kill the bookstore. Latiolais treasures the reading series as a beloved "victory lap" for authors like Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Alice Seybold and Izzy Prcic, who travel "home" to UC Irvine. Murren's first take on the series, according to Astrella and others at meetings, was that no one cared. Once it was made clear to her that plenty of people both attended and cared deeply, she suggested that the bookstore charge admission. This suggests that the person now running the bookstore rarely, if ever, attends author readings. More importantly, this suggests that administrators who don't value or respect books believe they are best suited to find new ways to monetize them.