Science Fiction at TU? Not for a while

The TU Delft library has the biggest collection of scientific and technical literature in the Netherlands. Their Special Collections include things such as the Tresor collection with historic maps, journals and other memorabilia.

In September, the library even introduced a bookcase of non-technical books that explore life in the Netherlands. But that apart, the library’s collection of non-technical books, especially fiction, is negligent. Unlike major technical universities in the world, science fiction isn’t to be found on these shelves either.

In 2012, MIT News reported that MIT’s Science Fiction Society Library had more than ‘90% of English language science fiction ever published…making it one of the top three largest publicly available collections of science fiction in the world’. They’re not the only ones. The Bud Footie Science Fiction Collection at Georgia Tech includes over 8,000 scifi novels, anthologies, journals and films in several languages. They also own first editions of classics in the genre, such as works by HG Wells and Jules Verne. SPECTRE, the Science Fiction Club at CalTech even has a motto about this: ‘Because a university truly dedicated to science wouldn’t be truly complete without a Science Fiction Club’.

It’s not a discussion that’s new at TU Delft. On October 2, at U-Meet 2014, a Robotics event co-hosted by Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft and Leiden University, ESHCC researcher Etienne Auge spoke about science fiction and our image of robots. In November 2013, the Faculty of Architecture hosted Writing Place, a global conference exploring fiction, poetry and literary methods as enriching architecture and vice versa.

Even so, fiction is a not a priority for the library at the moment. The TU Delft library is facing severe budget cuts. We no longer receive our subsidy from the Ministry of Education and have to redesign our Collection Development Policy from scratch. This means that we not only are restricted in new acquisitions but also have to cut on existing information resources. Even our core business resources -Science and Engineering – are affected, we have to make painful choices. You can probably see that Science Fiction is not our first priority at the moment,” explains Zofia E. Dzwig, TU Delft Library, Policy Advisor Collection Development.

However, in a bid to introduce students to some of these concepts the library does organise special events. From Island of Thoughts, an exhibition on philosophers such as Voltaire, Descarte and Nietzche, to the Language Library which introduces readers to Dutch writers such as Jessica Durlacher and Harry Mulisch. “Since its introduction we have got a lot of positive feedback on the Language Library. There are 120 books in the collection and we hope it will grow. It’s a great way for students to learn more about Dutch culture and even get inspired with new ideas,” says Marion Vredeling, the Programme Manager of the library. 

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