quality control in libraries

I have very very mixed feelings about this library staffer no-confidence petition. On the one hand, it’s a pain when management moves in and shakes things up with no regard for staff or patron input or impressions. On the other hand, who cares if the library has a lot of copies of Jackass 2? I hear it’s funny. And, if people want to watch it, what is wrong with that? We get into big big trouble when we start talking about “good books” versus “other books” especially if we think the library should only have the former and not the latter. I think instead of an “I read banned books” I need an “I read trashy genre fiction and USA Today and I’m a librarian” t-shirt. John Blyberg has more to say.

13 comments for “quality control in libraries

  1. 25May07 at 5:26

    Amen sistah! I heard Jackass 2 was funny, as well, and I could use a few laughs. Does the library do patrons a service of some kind when a bunch of them can find laughter, or other entertainment, there?

  2. 25May07 at 10:08

    I think that this situation is going to be a pretty interesting one to follow.
    If Jackass 2 brings more people into the library, then I am all for it. But please dont make me watch any Viva La Bam!

  3. 25May07 at 10:32

    I want my t-shirt to proudly proclaim that I read People magazine every week (and, being the Mom of a toddler, sometimes not much else as I tend to fall asleep after a few paragraphs at night).

    Please make the t-shirts. I will buy one!

  4. 26May07 at 12:33

    At a first misreading, my sympathies were much more solidly behind the librarians in question. When I read “It asks leaders to reconsider modeling library branches after a popular book or music store …” I thought for a moment that they were remodeling the interiors of the library buildings to look just like a Border’s or Barnes & Noble or something.

    But it would seem that I took that a tad too literally. Never mind.

  5. 27May07 at 1:52

    As always, this should be a community based decision. The library’s community should influence what constitutes the collection. If not the community is going to pull your funding and force you to high brow it all the way to the unemployment office. Of course, we should also be building strong core collections of diverse subjects, and from various media types… But if the community doesn’t get what they want, it’s just going to be us and our dusty Kant, Kafka, and principles of fluid dynamics.

  6. 29May07 at 1:24

    I want my shirt to say “I read trashy romance novels and I am still a literature buff.”

  7. Chris
    30May07 at 11:58

    I love pop culture as much as the next consumer. But be careful what you wish for. MPOW has outsourced selection of DVDs, which some could say is the next logical step after centralizing selection for a collection of popular feature films. But then, curious situations occur and you need to be prepared to deal with them – especially frontline staff who are now very far removed from the selection process. For example, your back catalog of classics starts to deteriorate and disappear, and DVDs of more recent classics start getting released. You find yourself with lots and lots of copies of something like “Jackass 2”, which, funny as it may be, is not destined to have legs. And your plan is not buying DVD editions of cool releases like “Coal Miner’s Daughter” or other more recent classics. You find yourself confronted with an angry taxpaying customer who wants to know why there are 20 moldering copies of “Jackass 2” on the shelf, and he has to wait weeks for the much scratched copy of “Casablanca”. I am exaggerating, but not much.

    Go back and look at those Sacramento Library catalog records for Jackass 2 – 30 copies, 1 hold, and the Paris Hilton book has 2 requests. That’s popular?

  8. Cassandra
    31May07 at 7:28

    I could write a book about this post, but I’ll try to contain myself. Let’s say: Chris? Nail
    on head. When you have a fairly small buying budget, and when you are the only source
    anywhere in your community for classics, for historical/cultural anything (books and media
    both), then these choices can carry a lot of import.

    Of course libraries should provide entertainment and “light reading” as part of their offerings. And maybe my personal experience with this type of thinking has been atypical, and left me unfairly cynical. That’s probably true. But every managerial person I’ve
    encountered who was preaching the dismissive “we’re not a cloistered hall” was promoting policies that would lead to nothing but Jackass 2. (Or as I always thought of it, “We’re not a ‘library of record,’ so let’s assume our patrons want fluff and nothing but fluff.” Which is pretty disrespectful of our community).

    So staff watch while we buy as many copies of whatever’s hot this second that we can afford,
    and then dump and discard them a year later when we barely need one. What kind of a collection will we end up with in the long run? Hmmm….ever been to the book department at
    Wal-Mart or Target? They’re following exactly the same “collection development” strategy.

    Meanwhile, people are coming in looking for books on history, art, philosophy, physics …
    for themselves, for their kids’ studies. And we’re discarding these “boring” subjects like
    crazy because they can’t compete with the circulation statistics of the newest trendiest
    thing. Why should physics have to?

    I am personally a voracious consumer of popular culture. But if we went to the city, trying to start up a free DVD and PlayStation rental business at the tax-payers’ expense, they’d laugh at us. The only reason we get their money is because we still represent something more relevant and more lasting, with cultural and educational value. And while we’re at it, we
    can give our patrons some cool free trendy stuff, we can give them some fluff, as long as we don’t get so carried away with trying to hit that market that it’s all we do.

    Sorry, it was a book after all…

  9. 01Jun07 at 2:26

    I’ve become more conservative on this issue the longer I’ve been at my job. When I first got there I picked up a bunch of Pokemon and other TV tie-in books at the warehouse for book fair credit– I figured, they were practically free, and the kids love them, and my job is to find things that kids would love to read, right?

    years later, I still spend lots of my time trying to encourage kids to broaden their horizons when what they really want to do is check out Pokemon and Olson Twins books week after week after week. Part of me still thinks they should get to read what they want. But I also think now that they want those books because that’s what they know, and that part of my job is to help them find other things they might like aside from products of multimedia corporate hegemony, an d that I’m just perpetuating that hegemony by giving these books a privileged (we have fewer than 12,000 items) place in the library collection.

    Of course, a school library’s mission isn’t exactly the same as that of a public library. But the basic question is the same: with limited resources of time, space, and money, how do you balance the immediate demands of the bulk of your population against the long-term responsibility of maintaining a balanced collection of lasting quality?

  10. Sonya
    05Jun07 at 12:19

    Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, me and my Star Trek Voyager fiction. When hubby wants to torment me he’ll announce in front of other humans I’ve been known to read Westerns, too.

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