December 20, 2014

Letters to LJ, December 15, 2013 Issue

“[M]any university-based researchers…don’t realize that it’s the library that is choosing which resources to subscribe to and paying the bills”

Already disintermediated

I doubt the assertion that “traditional subscription models may no longer be a barrier to entry, taking libraries out of the equation for some researchers” (Ian Chant, “Shift from Green to Gold OA Could Leave Libraries Out of the Loop”).

It is not because I don’t think this type of Gold [open access] will take root, but because many university-based researchers who use subscription-based resources already don’t realize that it’s the library that is choosing which resources to subscribe to and paying the bills. Instead, they have a vague idea that the university is paying, or, in the case of students, may not even realize that anyone is paying until they graduate and find that they can no longer access their favorite subscription-based resources.

In other words, librarians are already quite disintermediated from most users’ consumption of the growing portion of scholarly literature that is available online.

—Kevin Hawkins, Dir. of Operations, Michigan Pub., Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor

Fewer people needed

Both Leslie Holland’s letter (“ ‘Generous’ ALA,” Feedback, LJ 10/15/13, p. 10) and Steven Bell’s “Hey Boomers: Let’s Talk About Retirement” (From the Bell Tower, LJ 10/15/13, p. 21) address a similar problem: lack of jobs and a glut of job seekers. We are certainly not the only discipline in which this is an issue, but I personally believe that employed people have no moral obligation to “step aside” for those behind them but should be free to enjoy their craft as long as they are mentally and physically able to complete it. Nor do I think, as Holland suggested, we should micro­manage colleges to the point of dictating how many graduates they can put through their programs. However, I thank them both for making us think about the bigger issue.

As we constantly strive for increased efficiencies…fewer people are needed. While some experts will say that these efficiencies create opportunities elsewhere in that field or in other fields, I’m not convinced…. ­Jaron Lanier said in his presentation at the 2013 American Library Association conference we usually focus on the positives from technological advancement and disregard the negatives. We are starting to see the negatives more clearly.

­—Larry Oathout, COO, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L., Evansville, IN

Not an easy job

Michael Stephens’s “Bridging the LIS/­Library Divide” (Office Hours, LJ 9/15/13, p. 33) follows the Reinventing Libraries feature “A Tale of Two Libraries” by Mary Ann Mavrinac (LJ 9/15/13, p. 30–32). I got stuck on this phrase from the column: “spending a desk shift doing ‘professional reading.’ ”

What I want in the librarians that I hire is that they not have unrealistic expectations about how hard they will have to work to serve our students…well. They must actively collaborate with the discipline faculty, engage with our campus community, and provide leadership within the library. It is not an easy or a simple job, and it can and should often be overwhelming, because our goals should be lofty.

My faculty librarians tell me that our information commons/reference area is so busy that often they don’t have time to check their email even once during a desk shift. My thought in response is “Good!” Anyone who comes out of library school thinking that a desk shift might be a good time to catch up on professional reading is more likely to be helping to create that library in “the worst of times” than “the best of times.” Stephens is right; coasting is not an option.

—Monica Luce, Dean of Instructional Resources, Highline Community Coll., Des Moines, WA

Stand up for weeding

Though I take away from John Berry’s “The Weeding War” (Blatant Berry, LJ 11/1/13, p. 10) that he endorses regular weeding, his reluctance to take a definite stand is disappointing. He only makes firm declarations when he states that because weeding is controversial, it “must be done…very quietly.”…

I am a firm supporter of constant and regular review of a public library’s collection, and learning that some librarians share the same sense of shame or hesitancy as Berry expressed is disappointing. It is ludicrous for anyone, patrons or library staff alike, to entertain the notion that one institution can and should hold on to any items that are no longer contributing to the community they serve. It is physically impossible to do so while adding new materials; it is antithetical to the mission of contributing to a collection and thus to the community we serve.

Weeding ensures that we are actually developing our collection. It is basic house-cleaning: out with the unused and in with what promises to enrich. To make tongue-in-cheek comments about weeding in secret denotes an unwillingness to stand up for an essential part of what we are charged to do and to explain that to the patrons who may think we are simply throwing good resources in the trash.

—Keyth Sokol, Collection Svcs. Coordinator, Campbell Cty. P.L, Newport, KY

This article was published in Library Journal's December 2013 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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