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Sneaks the Cat January 5, 2007

Posted by KG in Uncategorized.
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Wow. There’s so much floating around my friends’ websites about Fairfax County libraries. Kriston, Tom, DCeiver, Ryan, and Ygglz, all with opinions about how the libraries are trying to become bookstore-like in their management of inventory.

There seem to be two big problems from this thinking. First, for every estimable classic the libraries have been tossing, I’m sure there have been plenty of Tekwars. In fact, I’d argue the pablum discarded outweighs classics by at least five to one. Libraries toss out crappy books all the time. The big difference? All of a sudden they’re using data tracking to do it. Its easier, it saves time, and it still gives the librarian discretion to keep that sentimental favorite on the shelf. Anyone who knows librarians knows what data geeks they can be. It seems to me this is just a natural evolution.

Second, we may be romanticizing libraries a bit. Well, at least we fellow book nerds. We’ve got this vision in our heads of a pre-teen, walking into a library with his/her mind a tabula rasa, and finding a book that changes his/her life. The potential for that vision to come true is seductive. Unfortunately, its also ridiculous — that is not what libraries, at least American public libraries, do.

I remember the hours spent at the Perry Hall library as a youth (trivia fact: dedictated by then-Baltimore County Commisioner Spiro Agnew!). At times, yes, I was checking out books that were canonical, or at least on their way to being canonized. But more often than not, I was checking out crappy science fiction, books about dinosaurs, and The Stand. The library didn’t instill any erudition; I never checked out anything that would embiggen me. What the library did do is jumpstart the habit of reading for enjoyment, make reading less of a task and more of a pleasure. And if a library can do that for a kid with Grisham or with William F’ing Faulkner, what difference does it make? I’m happy that an 11-year-old picked up a book in the first place. Reading the whole thing through without whining about a lack of pictures is good enough for me.

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1. DCBlogs » DC Blogs Noted - January 9, 2007

[…] Romancing the libraries. There has been much discussion on a number of blogs about the integrity of library collections as they become more bookstore-like. But the writer at The Diplodocus argues that a library’s greatest contribution isn’t so much its collection but the habit it instills. An excerpt: The library didn’t instill any erudition; I never checked out anything that would embiggen me. What the library did do is jumpstart the habit of reading for enjoyment, make reading less of a task and more of a pleasure. […]


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