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Why Should Libraries Focus on Popular Books?

Last week a reader frustrated by my perfectly sensible solution to the ebook lending “crisis” in libraries responded thusly:

Why is so hard to understand that first-run, popular, and new books are important to public libraries? It’s pretty simple. Public libraries exist to promote reading. People read more popular books than unpopular books. If public libraries don’t have access to the most popular books, it hurts their ability to accomplish their mission. I don’t understand the suggestion public libraries should not concentrate on providing popular books. Are they supposed to concentrate on collecting books people don’t want to read?

I guess libraries waiting six months or so after publication before being allowed to lend ebooks from a publisher is worse than the current practice of not being able to lend them at all. And, at least while print books exist, people could still check out the print copies of popular books, since publishers can’t control those.

If public libraries really exist to promote reading, as opposed to promoting videogaming or tech workshops or whatever the latest trend is, then having the most popular books is possibly a good way to do that. After all, think of all those poor people who would be deprived of reading culture if they couldn’t read the latest John Grisham novel for free. My god, how will democracy survive?

If promoting the reading of bestselling thrillers is what public libraries are about, then they don’t have much reason to exist. A long time ago librarians thought that reading popular tripe would help cultivate the people’s taste for better books, but they gave that up when they realized that reading popular tripe cultivates a taste for reading more popular tripe.

Reading isn’t necessarily a good in itself. Reading is good because of the good things it brings, and promoting reading simply for entertainment isn’t that important, and it’s very far from the ideals about the necessity of libraries for access to information in a democracy that librarians like to trot out when they’re under fire.

The last question from the commenter seems rhetorical, with no way of answering it without seeming naive. “Are they supposed to concentrate on collecting books people don’t want to read?”

Since I’m nothing if not contrarian, I’ll answer, yes. The bestsellers will be read anyway, but libraries could focus on collecting books that people should read.

No, that sounds too “elitist” for librarians. How about this instead? Libraries should concentrate on collecting books that people might want to read, might even enjoy and benefit from, but don’t know about, and then promote them like crazy.

The bestsellers are already promoted like crazy. Most of them are pretty bad by whatever standard you want to apply, but they’re like cotton candy. They go down smoothly because the readers know exactly what to expect and never get any surprises. People who exclusively read bestsellers and mass popular fiction are hardly worthy of being called readers at all.

On the other hand, in many public libraries there is a treasure house of books that are only “unpopular” because nobody knows about them, and nobody knows about them because the increasingly limited book promotion apparatus ignores them because they’ll never be super profitable.

By the way, I’m definitely not talking about the kinds of books academic libraries buy, since most scholarly books are tedious in the extreme. Just today I was reading one on a subject I was really interested in, but was so put off by the stilted style that I had to pause every few sentences and wonder how someone so knowledgeable about a certain academic subject could be so ignorant of how to write a compelling sentence.

And I’m also not just talking about so-called literary fiction, the sort produced by professors of creative writing for other professors of creative writing. Most of it that I’ve read compares unfavorably to even mediocre thrillers.

I’m talking about the solid, well written fiction and nonfiction that exists but never gets taken up by the publicity machine. There are plenty of great novels from straight fiction to genre fiction that more people would know about if libraries promoted them. There are also great books on history, religion, or politics that are not only interesting and accessible to general readers, but that might even change the ways people think.

Someone once said that in a library there should be something to offend everyone. That’s a bit strong. But in every library there should be books that challenge people, whether it’s challenging them to form new opinions about controversial topics or challenging them to read a book by someone who has never sold a million copies of anything.

What would be so bad about libraries concentrating on those books and promoting them, instead of just supplying the popular stuff? If you really want to promote reading, cultivate the habit of reading something other than the routine bestsellers that are easily digested and easily forgotten, consumed like candy for the mind.

A while back I argued that libraries could promote themselves as tools of the meritocracy we supposedly have in America. That was a cynical post.

A less cynical activity would be to promote libraries as a place to get what can’t easily be gotten elsewhere, a place to find something people aren’t expecting, and for free as well.

Would that be so bad? Or is it be better to just be a place to wait a little while and save a few bucks to read the latest Grisham novel?

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Comments

  1. gatoloco says:

    “A less cynical activity would be to promote libraries as a place to get what can’t easily be gotten elsewhere, a place to find something people aren’t expecting, and for free as well.”

    Well said AL. Delivering hard to find information, coupled with specialized reference services, is something that all library types should concentrate on. That being said, I set up a book exchange when working as a solo librarian at a for profit two year school. It quickly evolved into a romance novel exchange, but it gave me opportunities to promote reference services, as well as creating a friendly environment. I really came to enjoy meeting the new people who came in the door. In short, I think it can be a great thing to have some popular items in the collection, as long as there are top notch services included in the proposition.

  2. spencer says:

    I’ve often wondered why we push what is already popular instead of the hidden gems.

    On a tangent, why do we also put the most popular items on display or in front? Shouldn’t those locations be used to move less popular items- keeping the DVDs, Bestsellers, etc., in areas where they would have to bypass all the other stuff to get to them?

    It works with grocery stores and milk.

    • me says:

      That is what we do with non-fiction. We have displays of all of our new books in non-fiction regardless if they’re popular or not. We also create themed displays every month and try to attract people to some hidden gems.

    • spencer says:

      That’s great Me. Are they in front of your best sellers? Dvds? If so that’s awesome. What I’ve seen a lot is DVD’s/bestsellers at the front and center so that people can grab them and go.

  3. Spekkio says:

    In my opinion, the most important books in a public library’s collection – insofar as the promotion of democracy goes – are the books on history, economics, and politics. This is the in-depth information and analysis that cannot be gotten on the Internet (well, legally, anyway) and it’s the information that people really should have to be well-informed citizens. (This isn’t to say that I think that “popular” books are unimportant, though. I reject that sort of thinking as excessively elitist.)

    But here is my prediction: if librarians actually tried to encourage patrons to read more of the aforementioned “serious” books, it wouldn’t be long before the screams about “indoctrination” and “socialism” started in earnest. It wouldn’t matter how balanced the library’s collection might be – the book challenges would come fast and furious (Barbara Ehrenreich! Saul Alinsky! Paul Krugman! Keith Olbermann! Naomi Klein! Michael Moore! The horror, the horror!). Other materials, like DVDs, would get challenged too.

    Librarians would find books in the garbage cans. More than one person would be caught at the door trying to steal materials intending to destroy them. Some Books and DVDs would get checked out and never come back. Other materials would be returned defaced or destroyed. The library’s funding would be challenged. People would rush to join the Friends of the Library or the board in order to gain control over the library. Donations of more “acceptable” materials would surge. No doubt the increased attention would also increase challenges to other parts of the library collection (minorities, LGBTQ, religion).

    In the end, the librarians involved would probably resign – partially motivated by disgust, partially motivated by the hope that their stepping aside would save the library. But it probably wouldn’t work – the library would still have to make serious changes to its collection and policies just to survive. And maybe it would survive, but in a corrupted state…or maybe, its funding gutted, the library would die altogether.

    Call me whatever you like…maybe it’s just safer to promote lighter reading and vainly hope that people will expand their horizons on their own instead of having your public library get pilloried on Fox News.

    • spencer says:

      That’s funny. The only experience I have with this is librarians weeding Decision Points and Palin’s book as soon as they get in. “NOT in my library,” they say. “If they want that they can get it downtown or buy it.”

      This is a true story. I don’t think it’s representative of the profession on a whole, but the list of materials you just mentioned- if you promoted those solely, then you should be questioned.

      However, if you promoted them next to books by Friedman, von Mises, Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, etc. then most people wouldn’t have a problem with it.

      As it is, worldcat lists 271 libraries that have “The declaration of independents : how libertarian politics can fix what’s wrong with America” and while over twice that many have Keith Olbermann’s books.

      This probably goes along the same lines as 1 in 11 librarians not identifying as or not donating money to the DEMs. In other words, if libraries were actually subjective and not self censoring in their collections, such promotion would be great. However, since the collection is biased (and I don’t think it’s intentional), it WILL be seen as bias along the same lines as the people who told me to leave the profession if I didn’t understand the progressive goals of the public library.

    • Spekkio says:

      “However, if you promoted them next to books by Friedman, von Mises, Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, etc. then most people wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

      That may be so. And I agree – public library collections should include every viewpoint – from socialism on on the left to libertarianism on the right.

      But in our supercharged, hyper-partisan political climate, what “most people” think or want doesn’t matter all that much. All it takes is a few very loud people getting worked up for chaos to ensue.

  4. Valkyrie says:

    Thank you, Annoyed Librarian, for challenging the accepted gospel of the public library world – that circulation of popular materials trumps all other functions of a library. The public library movement was not founded to solely provide entertainment – which was only a part of its function. One of the critical, and often forgotten, roles of a public library is to be “the university of the people”, where anyone, no matter what socioeconomic status, could access knowledge for their personal betterment. I realize that acquiring knowledge by “standing on the shoulders of giants” is a hopelessly old-fashioned enlightenment ideal, but one our culture has abandoned to its detriment. There are a few places like St. John’s College where the post-modern concept of contextual knowledge has been avoided, but I read that even the great public libraries such as New York are diminishing their collections and scholarly focus in favor of mass appeal. If public libraries peeled off their fixation on “relevance” and circulation statistics as a measure of value, then they could truly begin to create collections with depth and breadth which would meet the needs of all knowledge seekers, not just the masses seeking the latest hyped and marketed book product. Even the life cycle of these so-called books reflects the 21st century consumer attitudes – that is, buy 30 copies and discard them when interest wanes, contributing to the waste stream, and inappropriately using scarce taxpayer dollars. If public libraries don’t buy the good mid-list titles, the literary fiction and poetry, and the non-fiction that challenges the reader to think, who will? And how will the average citizen access them or even know about them? Public libraries need to return to their roots of professional selection to build excellent, intellectually challenging collections that meet the knowledge needs of all readers.

    • I think you’re onto something, Valkyrie.

      Library funders maintain their support because they associate libraries with the aspirations you listed. A key finding of OCLC’s 2008 report, From Awareness to Funding, is that library funding support is only marginally related to library visitation. So, many funders have not visited a public library in a while. They probably do not realize how little daily operations of a contemporary library align with the aspirational values they associate with the institution.

      I expect their awareness will grow through continued state and municipal budget pressure that cause people to re-examine the role of public libraries in their lives and bad press like the numerous newspaper accounts of pornography in public libraries & satires from the likes of John Stewart, Jay Leno and The Onion and The Huffington Post.

      It seems unlikely that people will be as willing to fund public libraries in the future as they have in the past. Libraries can get out ahead of this by re-connecting with their aspirational mission and building top-notch services around it.

  5. Somehow I think the notion of telling our customers what they “should” be reading or “need” to be reading would be about as popular as those “serious” books you’re talking about. And not all popular book are purely entertaining. Shouldn’t we be meeting the needs of all readers as best we can without debating the merits of what they choose to read?

    • Yeah Bonnie – people wouldn’t stand for being told what they “should” do.

      I think Spencer and Me are suggesting we get back to an original tenet of our public libraries — pooling our money to provide resources we could not provide on our own. The latest bestsellers no longer fall into this category; they’re heavily promoted and available everywhere including supermarkets, drugstores, Walmarts, Red Boxes. What’s far less available is discrimination and context – selecting good works across genres and adding value thru context (aggregation, presentation, collaboration with other cultural organizations, etc).

      Let folks go to Amazon, et al to find what’s new or popular. Let them come to their libraries to find what’s good. Trust me on this – if done well, libraries will be surprised by how many people will be attracted to this emphasis on quality.

    • Yes, those books are available everywhere–to buy. Some people can’t or don’t want to buy them. And who are we to say what’s “good?” I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t completely agree with it. However, as always, I appreciate your viewpoint!

    • Bonnie – I don’t see how the fact that a small segment of the population doesn’t want to spend money on something is justification for a public institution to spend public money on it. Where’s the public good in that?

      Regarding quality, there are many ways to assess content — plot and character development, originality, use of language, cinematography, use of authoritative resources in a non-fiction work. I’d like to see libraries help the public understand what some of these criteria are and then curate selections for us. This, I think, stays true to the “People’s University” mission of the public library. Public television and radio currently do a fine job with this, and I believe our public libraries would be a strong addition to this national service.

      Please understand I’m not passing a value judgement on genre here. I support our libraries using credible criteria to acquire a wide range of quality materials — gothic novels, mysteries, whatever. What I find objectionable are auto-fulfillment programs where the vendor decides what to ship, or library staff automatically acquiring James Patterson’s semi-annual output or the latest alphabetic thriller by Sue Grafton, or patrons submitting a purchase request — without a quality/context assessment. Where’s the “value-add” here? What I’ve just described is materials management 101 and there are far more efficient and cost effective means of doing it than our public libraries.

    • Joneser says:

      Auto-fulfillment programs save a LOT of staff time. People are going to ask for those titles, and expect them. If libraries are smart, they aren’t putting all of their collection money into these categories. But to say that these programs somehow aren’t “right” for public libraries is to totally misunderstand public libraries. Are you going to tell them they can’t read those books? You wouldn’t last long.

      The patrons are deciding the “value-added” here. Study after study shows that there is a reader-book connection which can’t always be defined or explained. We mess with that at our peril.

    • Hi Joneser – you’ve suggested again that I don’t understand public libraries. What’s truer, I think, is that we have different ideas about library mission, value-add and institutional peril.

      That’s a good thing in my book and I hope we both keep chiming in …

  6. D says:

    When I first saw my comment featured, I was horrified about the typos. Thank god I didn’t use my name. Then I was kind of flattered. Then I read AL’s comments and was a little hurt and wanted to reply, “Yeah, well you’re fat!”

    It probably does matter what people read. If we promote one book over another, we probably should promote good books over crappy books. But we’re not really in the business of promoting individual authors or titles. We’re in the business of getting people to read more and to read at higher and higher achievement levels. This is important because reading is a critical skill for success in our society. Disciplines advance themselves through their literature. For example, attorneys become attorneys by reading – not by watching DVDs or through the oral tradition. Most careers require its students to read at advanced levels and our job is to help people raise their reading levels. Just by reading, people gain the vocabulary and other skills that improve their ability to read.

    I don’t think I want to visit your library – full of books selected because no one wants to read them. It’s probably nice and quiet there, though.

  7. anonymous says:

    Wow. AL makes rare sense.

  8. I Like Books says:

    I’ve gone to the library, curious about some item that’s been appearing in the news (economy or Arabs or whatever), and went home with a little load of books that might represent $100 at a time.

    Education is the cure for easy-answer punditry (“For every problem there’s a solution that’s simple, clean, and wrong” – Mencken). Democracy depends on other voters having a clue, too. But it can be hard enough to get them to read a book when it’s free. It would be perverse to make them pay that kind of money for it when their votes also affect you and everyone around you.

    Nobody asked me, but I see education in general as the central purpose of the library. Video games and best-sellers come along for the ride, get people used to walking in the door, stuff like that. If library usage plummets because the fun stuff is cut, it would still be important for libraries to be here.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      I agree with the book-liker over there. Many of the really good books in our library are barely going to get touched, if you’re directly comparing individual circulation figures. But the cumulative effect of all those good books getting picked up and read a few times in all the libraries across the country is pretty much the reason for our existence.

      The problem is that there’s a tremendous amount of up-front cost involved in staffing and maintaining a great big building filled with good books, and only a fraction of that is the materials budget. Since public libraries get most of their funding by getting voters to agree to levy taxes on theselves, we’ve got to have the support of plenty of voters to stay open. The most powerful tools we have there are circulation stats and folks who have favorable memories of using a library at some point.

      So I don’t think material selection is the right method to promote higher-quality reading material. I do agree that a library’s displays and layout should be geared toward promoting lesser-known and better-written materials, and letting people work a little harder to find the popular crap they’re going to gravitate towards anyway.

      It’s like hospitals tacking a $50 charge on your bill for the two asprin they gave you in the emergency room. Yeah, fifty bucks is pretty steep for two cents worth of medicine. But if everyone is paying that much for the basics, then they can concentrate billions of dollars worth of research and equipment on a relative handful of patients without charging them $Texas.

      So next time you’re cataloging 30 copies of Sue Grafton’s “X is for What Do You People Want From Me,” don’t think of it as the decline of the library system. Think of it as subsidizing the right book at the right time for someone else.

  9. librarEwoman says:

    The library is here to serve the people. If “the people” want popular fiction, we should have a good selection of popular fiction. At the same time “the people” also want and need information about health, law, how-to topics such as cooking and gardening, etc. So, we should have a good selection of those sorts of books, too. A good collection is a balanced blend of the popular and the necessary. We “promote” books through doing reference interviews and reader’s advisory. It may be a popular fiction series that sparks someone’s love for reading, but that often leads them to a wider interest in reading that encompasses less popular books. The idea that “popular” means “tripe” is elitist. A book becomes “popular” because thousands or millions of people have read it and suggested it to their friends. If so many people think that a book is good enough to suggest it to all of their friends, then it is “good” enough to be put into a library’s collection. It’s not our job to judge the current culture’s concept of “good.”

    • spencer says:

      If the library is here to serve the people, it’s doing a really bad job. Only 15% of the population are actually using us with any regularity. That’s a failure of public service.

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      Hey, I think we’re doing great. Less than 0.6% of the population used the fire department last year, and people love those guys.

    • Hi Spencer – I’ve been trying to find a statistic like the 15% you quoted. Can you share your source(s)? Thx.

    • spencer says:

      Jean,

      If you look at the harris poll that says 2/3 of people use the library, but actually look at the numbers, it’s telling.

      “Over one-third (35%) of people with a library card have used the library 1 to 5 times in the past year and
      15 percent have used it more than 25 times in the past year.” That’s 35% of the 68% that has a library card that use us less than once every 2 months. that’s 15% of the 68% that has a library card that use us at least once every 2 weeks- that’s just over 10% of the total population. Looking at visits from libraries such as Fort Worth (where the % of library card holders is actually about 27% of the pop) taking that 10% of the general pop is about 73000 and if they all only visit the 25 times a year, that means they’re responsible for 1,825,000 of the annual visits. Ft Worth only had 1,926,379 total library visits in 2010. That’s potentially 10% of the patrons making up 94% of the visits. If they only checked out an average of 1 item per visit (which we annecdotally know isn’t true) they would account for 44% of circulated items. I obviously suspect this is much higher. (Actually, in fort worth I suspect it’s a much smaller % of total population because of the low membership rate.)

      http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris-Interactive-Poll-Research-Library-card-use-2008-09.pdf

      https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/apps/ld/pls/2010/plsstats.php

      As for the fire department quip- such a bad argument and a straw man. If you think we provide a similar service, make your case.

    • spencer says:

      sorry, I just wanted to point out that it’s actually worse than I said when I threw out the 15% number.

      Now, when you get into the resource allocation, spending per visit or unique visitor, it where it gets really sad. Fort Worth in 2010 spent $20,342,592. Per capita that’s about $28, but when you break it down by USER- especially heavy user since the other 90% of the population doesn’t really impact your stats all that much- you’re looking at a cost of $278 each.

      If this doesn’t bother you- especially considering that that other $250 is being paid for byt people who don’t use the library- then you should ask yourself why.

    • Baxter says:

      “The library is here to serve the people. If “the people” want popular fiction, we should have a good selection of popular fiction.”

      The people also want an iPad, a McMansion, and a Ferrari. Sadly there’s limited funds and we sometimes have to decide between giving them what they want and what they actually need. Libraries don’t exist just to buy popular books for people to cheap to buy them for themselves.

      Not that I’m going to be the one to change the status quo. This isn’t something I care enough about to risk the wrath of little old ladies.

    • Thanks for the Harris Poll, Spencer. It’s a hoot to look at the numbers and read the spin, isn’t it? I also love the technique the library reports use of throwing in a ton of extraneous numbers to mask the poor findings.

      The Harris Poll, the OCLC Perceptions 2010 study and the OhioLINK–OCLC Collection and Circulation Analysis Project 2011 are examples of this.

  10. Jane Mitchell says:

    Oh, my. Perhaps Sherman and Mr. Peabody allowed us to step into the Wayback Machine and we are now in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the purpose of public libraries were to instill culture in the masses by providing uplifting, didactic reading. Oh, dear, where are my bun and reading glasses on a chain? As the majority of public libraries are supported by local governments whose function is to provide for its citizens, there would seem to be a large necessity for meeting their needs. Many people use libraries for leisure reading and some informative reading as well. In these days of shrinking library budgets, it would be suicidal to return to the precriptive role of centuries past.

  11. Joneser says:

    I’ve gotten to the point where I can only spend so much of the budget on “popular stuff” – and a lot of that is good. I spend a lot of money on replacements of all sorts of titles “still” being read. I also buy great narrative NF (which is requested) and I buy the how-tos, as much as I can afford, in areas such as sustainable living, vegetable gardening, vegan cooking, knitting, one-whatever wonders, local travel books, living well on less – you name it. Our circulation is plateauing because the materials can’t move any faster. Oh yes, then there are the feature films, the tv shows, the cds . . .

    It’s not one thing against another. It’s EVERYTHING. As long as it’s easy to buy from our jobber, b/c staffing is of course another scarce resource.

  12. Joe Schallan says:

    Promoting books — that is, pushing what patrons should read or may want to read — means making value judgments about books and readers, and that is something the modern public librarian absolutely wants no part of. Bonnie’s post upthread exemplifies the attitude.

    I’m not saying whether it is a good or bad thing. But if you expect today’s librarian to make a value judgment, that just isn’t going to happen.

  13. Librarycat53 says:

    Who gets to define what is good? How does a library staff say what books on their shelves are better than the current bestseller? We don’t have the time (or the interest) to read everything on our shelves – or even to read authoritative reviews of everything on our shelves. I’ve read a lot of very good authors, and enjoyed them thoroughly, but I’ve also read many authors deemed to be excellent by reputable review sources, and been annoyed or bored to tears. I use Our role is to offer the widest possible selection that we can within our budget and space (space is the bigger issue in my library) to our patrons. I do rely on a variety of “auto-fulfillment” programs from vendors so I don’t have to spend ANY time purchasing the latest James Patterson; I know I will have patrons lining up for it. I get to spend my time looking for “better” books to put on the shelf with it – and selecting non-fiction, which takes more time.

  14. Librarycat53 says:

    P.S. – our community has 48% library card ownership. Considering that a portion of our population simply isn’t old enough yet per our policy to have a card, we seem to be doing well. Figures based on Fort Worth definitely don’t apply across the board!

    • spencer says:

      The numbers might not be the same, but the percentages are. That was a national survey showing that only about 10% of your pop actually uses you more than once a month.

  15. Techserving You says:

    AL wrote,

    “Libraries should concentrate on collecting books that people might want to read, might even enjoy and benefit from, but don’t know about, and then promote them like crazy.”

    I agree with you completely. As a new Library Director in my first public library job after years of working at large elite universities, I’m dealing with “culture shock.” I do believe some focus needs to directed to the whole funding issue, though… people DO want bestsellers and complain and even write angry letters to the editor when they don’t get them.

    But, one of my big goals is exactly as AL described… to bring lesser-known “gems” to the masses. These are books I’m sure people would like if they knew about them. Fortunately, I have total control over what is purchased in my small library, and I’ve broadened collection development from the “all new mysteries and thrillers all the time” policy of my predecessor. And… shock! People are happy about it. Some people do criticize me for “wasting” money on nonfiction, but they’re thankful for the “unusual” fiction picks and foreign films and documentaries. I try to make people aware of older items we already own, and new items they might not otherwise think of.

    I don’t think it’s elitist to say that public libraries should provide education to the masses, I just think it’s very unrealistic. People don’t want that. As crazy (and depressing) as it sounds, insisting on providing what we, as librarians, think the masses should be reading, but which the masses don’t want, is in many ways as stubborn as insisting we have a library twitter account, or Facebook account, which patrons don’t use. Yes, the difference is that unlike twitter and Facebook, classics and the like have some inherent value… but no value to the patrons if they’re just sitting on the shelf unread.

  16. Lyn says:

    I completely agree! Some of my favorite books have never reached bestsellers lists, working in a library I notice people just going straight to our new shelf grabbing a book and leaving. I have never seen some of the patrons venture to other parts of the library, I spend hours in a library not just working looking around and seeing what that next book will be that is waiting on a shelf.
    At the library I work at we do displays, I recently did a poetry display because our poetry books were not getting circulated and poetry day was coming up and other big poetry events. I am happy to say due to my large display many poetry books were circulated.
    I think it isn’t about getting popular books out it is about getting that one book that draws someone and keeps them coming back to the world of reading, but over all I would love to do more displays and get some unknown or even classics around more. The classics sit on the shelves and get dusty when in fact they are great pieces of literature.

  17. Nicola says:

    “promote libraries as a place to get what can’t easily be gotten elsewhere, a place to find something people aren’t expecting, and for free as well.”

    What limitations on how long you have to read a book? Limitations on how many times you can renew a book? Inability to renew a book because someone else decided they wanted to take the book you have? Being charged late fees all because you are not fast enough to read a book in under 2 weeks? Free comes at a cost, and this is why many libraries are dying. Time to change the model and get rid of archaic policies that do more to discourage reading.

    • Librarycat53 says:

      Dear Nicola,

      What model would like us to use? Apparently, you would like libraries to buy books and give them to you. You want no limitations on how long you can keep the books – but I’m guessing you would object strongly if you were the one on the waiting list, and someone else decided to keep the book you wanted for a few months because it took them that long to finish it. Free comes at no cost if you return the book on time. You can always check it out later to finish it – again, at no cost.