News is Not Good for Libraries

It seems that libraries are big news today – and none of it is good:

  • Today’s New York Times has a story entitled, Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over. This one is truly sad. It seems that a NJ public library has seen no alternative but to close its doors during afterschool hours due to unruly middle school students “taking over the library.” I sincerely hope that this is only a temporary measure until library, school and community leaders can come up with some more creative after school programming.
  • The Wall Street Journal also has a piece on the changing roles and low salaries of librarians. The author notes that today’s public libraries offer a more robust suite of services than in years past. Alongside the traditional reference desk and story hour are databases, workshops, and community events. Unfortunately, many libraries are struggling to finance equipment and hire qualified staff. Low wages in the public library sector are encouraging more new librarians to pursue opportunities in academia, business or government. (Article available in Wisconsin via BadgerLink -ProQuest)
  • Finally, the Washington Post has a horrible story lamenting that local librarians had taken literary classics “off the shelves and dumped them.” This one really pushed my buttons. Apparently the author didn’t seem to understand that shelf space in a library is relatively constant, not to mention expensive. In order for new materials to make their way to the public, it’s a hard truth that some older, lesser used items must be weeded.
    Does that mean every locally available copy of Hemingway gets tossed to make way for the new Grisham? Of course not. While it may not be available at every local branch, it is very likely available at a larger central library. Or, if not, it’s quickly available via interlibrary loan.
    For libraries to remain vital to the communities they serve, it is imperative that they collect new and interesting materials to match the interests of their patrons. And to do that, something has to give.