Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Are public libraries obsolete?

John Lott asks the question, and my answer is a resounding NO!

I'm a voracious reader of books, and I have 30 Banker Boxes (plus five book-cases more) of books by my favorite authors that I own.   But I can't afford to buy as many books as I want to read, so I have formed the habit of requesting new books from my local (county) library which they do not have in stock.

They buy the books, notify me when they arrive, and I check them out to read.   I'm often the First reader of these books; and I'm careful to only request books by "popular authors", so the county is not stocking books which are unlikely to be checked out by other readers.

And their accounting system keeps track of these requests, so they are aware of books which are likely to be checked out by other readers.

It's a good system for me; the library is publically funded (by my taxes) and I like that I encourage them to continue stocking new books as they become available.

But if new books are not ordered, the library is likely to be defunded over the years.  It's important that libraries receive this kind of positive feedback, so they know they are actively serving an active readership.

I do not always read all of the books that I receive from my library.

For example, Vince Flynn died in 2013 and his series of books has been assumed by a new author.  I do not like this author's style, so I will not be borrowing new Vince Flynn books from my library.  Chances are that they will eventually discontinue the practice of automatically buying these books (and certainly I will not be requesting them), and that's A Good Thing.

When I stop checking out new Vince Flynn books, the library will eventually discover that the popularity has decreased, and they will stop buying these books because ... nobody wants to read them.

This has a positive feed-back effect, if on a small scale, and in my mind it's a good way for me to reflect the public opinion on which books my library should spend its funding on.

In the meantime, the article mentions that librarians are personally building the 'popularity' of Classic Books in order to provide statistics to keep them on the shelves.   I think that's A Good Thing.  I haven't yet read many recent classics but i will want to do so some day.

I've read some classic children's books on tape for my grandchildren, and even encourage family members to contribute to the project by asking them to read the parts of 'other characters' in the book.  my children, and their children, enjoyed this "Books On Tape" project, especially because they begin to associate the readers' voices with the characters.    (I recently read a short segment of an OZ book to my grandchildren, when my daughter brought them to visit me, and my daugher interrupted me to say that I "read the wrong characters' voice".  I had read Brer Rabbit with a different dialect/ she later informed me that she and her brother (living with my divorced wife) use to go to sleep listening to the tapes that I had made for them.)

When Libraries budgets are cut, when they stop stocking classic books because nobody checks them out any more ... children lose the encouragement to READ, and appreciate, books which are older than they are.

What will our nation  become when the libraries no longer stock Brer Rabbit books?

We'll soon find out, because my library has no copies of any "Uncle Remus" books by Joel Chandler Harris.

Is this anti-racist protest?  If so, it's a sad commentary on America, because if we no longer make Historic Black Culture to be stocked, it's a loss to American Culture.


Mark said...

Man, how can you be a curmudgeon when you are so good to kids?

Anonymous said...

How many kids graduate from HS (or maybe not),that can read at an adult level? Of the kids that can read, how many read anything this is not a message on their cell phone?

Anonymous said...

I'm facing the same predicament. My library has a "Suggest a Title" option on the web site, which I use frequently. I've offered to buy a title that I've suggested but that caused heads to explode in the bureaucracy; apparently, "it's just not done" because of the approval process a new title has to go through; I guess they figure I'd start buying "Naked Left-Handed Dinosaurs From Pluto" or something for the collection. I have discovered, through, they will accept cash for the new book fund.

Mark said...

Can't you just donte books to the library? We can.

Anonymous said...

Tried that. Our library has a long list of books that are not deemed politically correct. Many of them are what were once considered classics. If not PC, the donated books go in the dumpster.