Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Weeds

Libraries are "responding aggressively to market preferences" just like bookstores. That statement simply boggles the mind.

So, how do our local libraries determine the content of their collections? With limited funds and space, no library is ever truly all things to all people. Twenty-four months with no activity and the book is weeded out. Classics, novels, nonfiction, reference—nothing is exempt. If no one is reading them, librarians take them off the shelves and either sell them or dump them.

Public libraries have always purged old or unpopular books to make way for newer titles. However, these days, library administrators are calculating the system's return on its investment by each foot of space on the library shelves and figuring out which "products" will generate the biggest buzz.

While a part of me understands the economics behind this, the reader in me is horrified that those dusty tomes are no longer to be found in libraries. I consider free public access to all books to be one of the basic rights, ranking right up there with the freedom of speech. Never be able to read the classics is like losing a part of history—a history of the language, of thought, culture, society...of the very people.

So, what do you think about these necessary steps taken by libraries to stay current and afloat?