Saturday, January 06, 2007

What are libraries for?

John J. Miller, noting that many libraries are getting in the habit of discarding books that haven't been checked out in two years even if they're classics, wonders if librarians are becoming mere clerks instead of those who "shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends." ("Checked Out," OpinionJournal, Jan. 3, 2007)

It's a fair question, I think, although I'd like to invite Mr. Miller to check out bookstores like ours if he thinks bookstores only cater to the latest fad. For that matter, we generally sell quite a few classics over the course of any given year, often to people who made it through a public school education and/or college without being exposed to much Western Civ and who wonder what they've missed. Heh.


Mother Auma said...

When the girls were very small, our city's library had a cart in the entry to the library with books you could take home for free. In those days of no spare cash, this is where I acquired quite a few "keepers." I often wondered why they decided to throw these books out.

Anna said...

Our library has book sales in the spring and fall, but they usually sell off paperbacks (which they have multiple copies of), but the majority are donated by those of us supporting the library.

johng said...

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.