In the wake of multiple controversies involving his staffing decisions, management style, weeding practices, and perceived levels of transparency and honesty, Berkeley Public Library (BPL) director Jeff Scott announced his resignation on Monday, August 31, after less than a year in the post.
“We have to weed the collection!” Every librarian will tell you that, but a great many library users, including many of those unpredictable “Friends of the Library,” along with a lot of other citizens, simply don’t understand why it is necessary to throw away “good books.” As a result, careless weeding of library collections has been the source of tremendous misunderstanding, disruption, bad publicity, and, all-too-frequently, the departure of library directors.
Dalhousie University’s library system was in a bind. Bound books, mostly out-of-date academic journals that had since been uploaded to online databases, had been piling up for years. At nearly 50,000 volumes, the library was running out of space, and shredding didn’t work. When builder and inventor David Cameron heard of the problem, he hoped to solve two problems at once, by using them to insulate an abandoned schoolhouse that’s now a community center focused on sustainability.
Community outrage over having weeded a quarter of a million books into dumpsters isn’t the kind of public relations brouhaha that any library relishes dealing with. That scandal, though, may be the least of the problems for the Fairfax County Public Library, VA, (FCPL) where the library’s Board of Trustees has pressed pause on implementing a strategic plan that was supposed to help guide the library forward.
A few months ago I suggested that one of the things preventing librarians from working at web scale might be “a lingering emphasis on collections over users.” I and others have argued that the evolution of libraries and library service will include a pronounced shift from libraries as book warehouses to libraries as centers for discovery, learning, and creation via any number of platforms. I might have been guilty of a bit of collection bashing in these discussions, and recent occurrences of collection trashing have given me pause.
Best Digital Practices: Navigating Platforms, Digital Displays, and the Ghost of VHS | LJ Day 2012of Dialog 2012
The third panel of the day, “Best Digital Practices” offered concrete advice from librarians who’ve spent time in the ebook trenches. “Unless you are willfully ignorant or dead,” Library Journal Book Review Editor Heather McCormack began, you are aware of the challenges librarians face as new digital collections are built and maintained.