Monday, January 15, 2007

What are libraries for?, revisited

Reader johng, responding at my previous post What are libraries for? (about libraries discarding books based on circulation stats, even if a book might be considered a classic or otherwise an important cultural heritage) wrote:

Kathryn, this article is timely. But such an insane practice has been standard in some libraries for at least the last decade. One librarian and I shared a laugh. She and others would 'check out' books essential to the library just to save them from the clutches of the library director, who was determined to turn the public library into a computer only center. That one check out would preserve the book until the next purge! Believe it.

We commiserated with another librarian. Hers was a newly opened public facility. The only books in the Young Adult section were recent publications, and a large number of them were objectionable to many parents. If there were classics, we didn't see them. Hers was a collection not usable for many families.

The holding of that which is good and beautiful, and necessary for civilisation--certainly a noble goal for our public libraries. And a lost role for many.

I have to admit that I feel rather silly for not having thought to suggest this before, but, really, it wouldn't take very many of us going to libraries and checking out books we don't want lost to the community, to save quite a few books worth saving.

Spread the word, eh?

Thanks, johng, and please thank those librarian friends of yours who battle for a good, healthy selection of books in their libraries.


Mother Auma said...

It is also possible to object to an objectionable book. The library usually has a form for that. Some ladies I know noticed the objectionable titles in our local library and spoke to the librarian about it, and she replied that (our library at least) caters to the tastes of the community. She advised them to fill out one of the forms if they found a book they objected to. If that is the case and each of us objected to an objectionable book a few times a year, we could influence what our libraries get rid of as well as what they keep.

Our local library is new and beautiful, but has special rules for the teen room-- adults and children under the age of twelve are invited to take the resources they need from the room and leave-- only teens are allowed to "hang out" in that room. The room has double doors (the only collection shut off in that way) and there is often loud music being played.

Unfortunately, I have a twelve year old and her homeschool science books for this year are in that room. We go in and out very rapidly. (I would just purchase the books if they weren't out of print and prohibitively expensive when they can be found at all.)

Anyway-- can you tell you touched a nerve? Lol!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the checking out is enough to save a book, sometimes. Our local library had a copy of Marshall's Our Island Story (popular with homeschoolers but hard to find until Yesterday's Classics reprinted it recently. I kept checking it out, not just to keep it from getting purged, but because we were using it for school! And then one day it just wasn't there anymore.

I had even asked that, if the book was going to be discarded, they would give me a chance to buy it; but I was told that wasn't possible either. All I could do was wait until the next big library sale and keep my fingers crossed.

But I never did see it. I hope somebody knows what they found.

Anonymous said...

Our firstborn works at a library, and her library computer tracks all books checked out by librarians differently- their stats do not count towards keeping a book in the system.=(