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PUBLIB  June 2010

PUBLIB June 2010

Subject:

Re: [Publib] Libraries without expertise?

From:

Joe Schallan <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 15 Jun 2010 19:48:51 -0700

Content-Type:

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On Jun 14, 2010, at 2:12 PM, <[log in to unmask]> =
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I've been on vacation for 2=BD weeks and am only now reading this.  I =
have not
> yet read other responses.  I am appalled.  I am glad I will retire in =
a
> year, if this is the direction libraries are heading.  This seems to =
me to
> be stupidity and ignorance to the nth degree! Wrong-headed.  =
Short-sighted.
> Foolish.=20


Lynne,

Good to hear from you. Be sure you read today's
posting, No. 144, "Big Box Libraries," over at
Will Manley's blog:

http://willmanley.com/

The large suburban library I was talking about would
tell you they are VERY service oriented, and that every
employee, including pages and aides, is empowered to
help you.  Since the library managers think Google
has killed reference, information skills and actually
knowing stuff don't matter so much anymore. People
mainly need directional guidance and help with
computers.

This library will tell you its approach is highly
successful, and it can produce the circulation figures
to support that contention.

If people want lots of copies of bestsellers and schlock
fiction, lots of copies of books on the latest self-
improvement fads, and a big selection of movie DVDs,
then you will no doubt please many of your patrons
with this approach.

If patrons are producing numbers that tell us they
value entertainment over "serious" reading, research,
information, and self-education, then can a library be
blamed for giving patrons exactly what they want?

They want vampire books and movies, not
enlightenment. So give 'em vampire books and
movies. It's their tax money, after all.

In the entertainment-driven, "big box" library (to
borrow Will's phrase), you have an impressive stock
of entertaining books and media on the shelves.
You have greeters and clerks to provide direction.
You save a ton of money by not hiring people with
expertise, which your patrons don't want anyway.

I believe that pressure on library budgets will
continue for a long time to come. My question is
whether the mission of entertainment can
be sustained in an environment of scarce
tax revenues. Wouldn't a city council person
say that when police, fire, streets, and public
works are hurting and hollering for money,
entertainment on the taxpayer's dime can go?

"Give 'em what they want" may produce
impressive circulation figures, but when
those who control city and county funding
figure out we've abandoned information,
accuracy, and expertise, they'll certainly
view us as expendable.=20

For sake of argument, I'm holding up the
example of a library that has taken "big box"
populism further along than most.  Many of
us have balanced entertainment and "serious"
reading for years.  Am I being too apocalyptic
in my worries about libraries devolving to
public entertainment, and the long-term
viability of such a mission?

I'm worried that in an atmosphere of severely
constrained budgets, public safety will always
garner much greater support than bread and
circuses.

I wonder whether, in the long term, we'd be
better off being what we used to be -- with
the lower popularity that implies -- than
trying to be a poor man's Amazon and Netflix.

Looking at the biggest picture, I worry that
although we can survive bad management and
bad ideas, we can't survive a bad culture.

Joe Schallan
Phoenix











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