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Weeding libraries. Hello, Grisham — So Long, Hemingway?

Hello, Grisham — So Long, Hemingway? With Shelf Space Prized, Fairfax Libraries Cull Collections. Lisa Rein, Washington Post, January 2, 2007

This is probably the saddest, most telling story about libraries I’ve read in years. It all is pitched as ‘strategic’ and ‘popular’ and ‘data-driven’ as if it is inevitable and unavoidable, but the real reason is clearly stated in the article: these changes are “driven by a $2 million cut to the budget” and “…circulation, a sign of prestige and a potential bargaining chip for new funding.”

Once again it looks like libraries have correctly defined a problem and instituted a completely wrong solution 😐 There’s plenty of literature that says that building collections based solely on popularity doesn’t work over the long run, but there are plenty of people (including I guess ALA president Leslie Burger) who, instead of being creative in highlighting their collections, would rather rely on some piece of software to tell them when a book hasn’t checked out for 24 months. I also found the bit about “it’s not here, but we can get it to you in a week” lame and dishearteningly parallel to the FDLP “shared collections” weeding plans (see for example, Govt Printing Office Draft guidelines for shared regionals (PDF), GODORT/AALL/SLA letter commenting on the draft, and ARL Draft support).

I would agree that you don’t need 40 shelf feet of books on tulips (unless you’re the SF Botanical Garden or Longwood Gardens), but the public interest in much fiction and non-fiction (not to mention government documents) looks like a sine wave, not a long tail.

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