October 20, 2014

Feedback: Letters to LJ, March 1, 2014 Issue

“It seems to me that librarians are trying to be something to all people. They are desperately trying to remain ‘relevant’ ”

High cost, few users

I read with interest Elizabeth Michaelson’s “Kitchen Library Loans Appliances” (LJ 12/13, p. 20) about the Kitchen Library (KL) and the Toronto Tool Library (TTL). I was somewhat surprised by the size of the libraries (TTL: 1,900 square feet, 2,000 items, 20 hours/week; KL, square feet not noted, 40 items, 20 hours/week). Staffed by volunteers and managed by a board for 300 TTL and 20 KL fee-paying members.

Even with volunteer staff, the cost to manage these libraries would be on­going and not insignificant for so few “borrowers.” Much is being written about public libraries rethinking their core services, being open to “change,” exploring new services that “connect” with their ­community.

The Pew Research Center’s January 24, 2014, report “10 Facts About Americans and Public Libraries” shows that for 80 percent of Americans, access to books and media free of charge is the most important library service, “followed by librarian assistance (76 percent), having a quiet and safe place to read (75 percent), and research resources (72 percent).” The report states, “The public’s highest priorities for libraries center on kids and literacy.” Maker spaces, tool libraries, and kitchen libraries do not feature anywhere in the list of services and programs libraries should implement.

If I am a keen gardener, or have a lawn that needs mowing, I am very likely to have the tools I need to carry out my pastime or weekly chore. If I love cooking and live in a city apartment, I would very likely be choosing to buy an apartment that has a great kitchen with space for all my kitchen stuff.

It seems to me that librarians are trying to be something to all people. They are desperately trying to remain “relevant,” while fragmenting our floor space, our budgets, our staffing.

I could not justify 1,900 square feet for 2,000 items to serve 300 “borrowers,” whether it be tools, cooking appliances, fishing gear, 3-D printing, or…books.

—Mark Norman, Coord. Lib. & Community Info Svcs., Rockdale City Council, NSW, Australia

Pine River progress

Far away in the mists of time, when the state of Colorado had multitype library systems and I worked for one, we consulted and provided CE for the Pine River Library (PRL). A friend sent me John Berry’s “Building a Living Library,” about PRL being the Best Small Library in America this year (LJ 2/1/14, p. 26–29). Right now, my innards are going, “Whoopie! Whoopie! Wow!” I am so impressed…. These guys have come such a long way in the past decade or so.

Back in my time, they were in an old bank building downtown. Its most interesting architectural feature was a black-doored bank vault decorated with fancy flowers and script. No room for children’s or adults programming. I think there was one computer for the librarian and another for public use. Board meetings were held at a table in the middle of the library, surrounded by the badly-in-need-of-weeding book collection.

But they were dreaming of a new building, and one of the director’s biggest issues was on what side of U.S. Highway 160 to build it. One side was the “old” Bayfield, site of the three-block downtown as well as longtime residents. The “new” side was experiencing considerable residential development, as Bayfield housing was more affordable than Durango’s and the commute was only 20–30 minutes. Site choices at that time were a recently abandoned school in old Bayfield, and vacant land close to a recently built bank (no visible vaults) in the new part of town. The board chose the site in “new” Bayfield, where the majority of young families lived. Obviously it turned out to be a wise choice!

—S. Jane Ulrich, retired, Durango, CO

Author of Shakespeare?

I was pleased to see that Nicholas Graham was reasonably evenhanded in his treatment of the Shakespeare authorship question (“The Bard at 450,” Collection Development, LJ 1/14, p. 48–51).

While it was good to see the recent documentary Last Will & Testament listed, I was disappointed that the “anti-Stratfordian” view was otherwise only represented by a 1999 book, when there has been so much more exciting and recent work….

I would recommend Katherine Chiljan’s Shakespeare Suppressed: The Uncensored Truth About Shakespeare and His Works (2011)…as well as Mark Anderson’s excellent Shakespeare by Another Name, his 2006 literary biography of Edward de Vere…the leading candidate for the authorship.

Graham’s section on web resources should have included authorship content like the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, at www.shakespearefellowship.org and the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and its “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt” at doubtaboutwill.org/declaration.

For a longer discussion about why this is an important issue for academic libraries, I can also offer readers to my own work on the subject in Partnership, the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.

—Michael Dudley, Indigenous & Urban Svcs. Libn., Univ. of Winnipeg Lib., Man.

This article was published in Library Journal's March 1, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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