Okay, I’ll admit it…I am a little annoyed. My library is in the process of working on strategic planning, so we have a consultant for that, and we also are working with an architect. These are both good guys, and they know what they’re talking about…
except, they like to say things like “libraries are not warehouses for books”. They, and many other library experts, feel that libraries should only keep fast-moving, popular items, and we should get rid of the shelf-sitters and the shelves themselves and buy cozy furniture. But here’s the thing: Libraries ARE warehouses for books. They are ALSO community gathering places, and a great place to learn new things, and they are where you can go when your Google search doesn’t get you the info you need but a librarian can. But it is a teensy bit premature to decide that paper and ink books are no longer needed.
Many public libraries are winnowing their collections down to be lean and mean. “Oh, you can just find that on the Internet,” people will say, only shockingly, not everything is on the Internet. The parent that comes up to the desk saying, “I read this book when I was a kid and I’d love to read it to my daughter,” wants the book. They don’t want you to hand them the newest Wimpy Kid book because that’s all the library has anymore.
Bookstores do an awesome job of stocking mountains of bestsellers. Libraries used to do something different. When did we lose sight of our mission? And what IS the warehouse for books if not the library? I think our patrons trust us to be that, and I think we are in danger of betraying that trust.
Don’t write me off as a dinosaur who wants things to go back in time. The first thing I accomplished when I became supervisor was adding a lot of in-house activities so parents and kids would think of the library as a destination. There IS a need for community gathering spaces, and I am 100% in favor of that. But I am not going to let the experts come in and say I should allocate x linear feet to books, because that’s ridiculous. I’ll say more about why in another post.
I am confident that my particular library, which has being old-fashioned as part of its charm, will come out with plenty of books. I am very worried that many libraries are making a different choice.