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Extra: Library Evolved


Recently I read an interesting article in The New York Times about the changing role of libraries to become a replacement of loss of traditional bookstores. From my own experience, as a kid, the joy of visiting the library is the serendipity of discovering another book, even though I was actually looking for something else in my mind. While libraries will not relinquish the responsibility to provide patrons with the opportunity to discover literary works of merit, they also have to adapt their collections to meet demands of the patrons. Yes, it would be nice to have deluxe hardbound edition of The Inferno, but what about the long queuing for Fifty Shades of Grey and The Life of Pi? To make room for the new acquisitions, weeding, or in library parlance, deselection, is inevitable. Over the years I have seen my public library has deacquisitioned well-known books by classic writers, while books by James Patterson know no bound. It would be nice to maintain a balance between quality literature and rotten fiction. Since I work in an academic institution, the situation is exactly opposite: no low-brow fiction is to be considered for acquisition. Books that are discharged permanently might enjoy a happy life after being sold.


3 Responses

  1. I could not agree more with what you have written here today. However I also notice that the better quality of a book often appears to be cheaper to buy than a new copy of 50 Shades or James Patterson which I would never buy. And the oldest literature is the cheapest yet if not free online. Makes no sense does it.

  2. Crowded shelves are often a problem in libraries and that can make browsing unpleasant because you pull a tightly shelved book out and can’t get it back in. With sharing of collections, at least each library doesn’t have to have 20 copies of every new bestseller, but there are still long waits. Some people are willing to wait longer for a book but others will pay a bookseller for the convenience of getting a book almost immediately. I agree with you that there needs to be a balance between the books of literary merit and books that need to be stocked because of popular demand, but wish there was still a place both for local brick-and-mortar bookstores AND libraries.

  3. In general, I think libraries are doing a better job of adapting than bookstores are. They probably have much more flexibility than bookstores. Mine is on a county system, so the books are shared throughout the county, even with a few branches in the adjoining counties. I can request books on-line and they’ll be available for pick up at my local branch in a couple of days unless there is a waiting list. This is about as long as i wait for most books I buy. I don’t read much that is ‘in-stock’.

    If only my local library had a coffee bar, I’d probably never leave it.

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