April 24, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, March 1, 2015 Issue

“If a student can get the first two years done at a community college and then go to a four-year institution to finish the bachelor’s degree, that makes it cheaper and less debt for the student.”

To cut crushing debt

I think one of the purposes of America’s College Promise (Cathryne Kaufman, “America’s College Promise,”) is to try to cut down on some of that crushing student debt. If a student can get the first two years done at a community college and then go to a four-year institution to finish the bachelor’s degree, that makes it cheaper and less debt for the student. Another purpose of the program is to try to address some of the shortcomings in K–12 [curricula]. Higher education is still voluntary. So, if a student had issues in high school, no matter what the issues were, community college can be a place to learn and address any deficits before they hit the job market

—Katy Walker, Reference/Instruction Libn., Colorado Mountain Coll., Edwards

Lowered expectations?

I perceived President Obama’s community college remark as a chance for those baby boomers who are losing their positions due to downsizing (Cathryne Kaufman, “America’s College Promise,”). Employers are no longer willing to pay for their retirement as well as their salary because they probably could pay someone cheaper who just graduated…. A “free” education enables them to take classes for a more updated position, while not worrying about using money from their savings while they are laid off. Details have not been released about any stipulations if there are any…. We should be focused more on those who are already involved with five to six figures (or more) of student debt onto which they may tack more debt when buying a house or a car or starting a family. I thought President Obama was going to take on this challenge, but maybe I was mistaken or he lowered his expectations to just the community college level.

—Jeanine Osther, Info Specialist, Russell Branch, Chesapeake P.L., VA

Going nowhere

It all sounds very exciting (Cathryne Kaufman, “America’s College Promise,”), but this is going nowhere in the current Congress. The only thing addressing the issue during the State of the Union did is put the conversation on the table, where it could be for years, until we hit the next fiscal crisis.

—Name withheld upon request

A prepaid club

We don’t use “free” in our library (Rebecca T. Miller, “Worth the Price: Reflecting on the Problem of ‘Free,’ ”). If I hear a staff member or member of the public call us “free,” I politely correct them. We are free at point of service. We are a prepaid membership club. Our job is to provide as much value as possible for our members and potential members. This is paramount, especially because they so rarely feel as if they get a choice in paying dues.

—Spencer Smith, Dir., Little Elm P.L., TX

Amazed at libraries

I recently had lunch with an old friend, and at some point our conversation turned to public libraries (Cheryl LaGuardia, “Change for Researchers’ Sake,”). He had not set foot in one in over ten years and recently visited a Chicago Public Library branch. He was amazed at how “libraries have really kept up with the times” with the computer access, electronic resources and databases, and multiple forms of media available. While I was thrilled that he was so excited about the changes, internally I was screaming, “What did you expect?!” And, of course, making sure that it’s not another ten years before he returns.

—Name withheld upon request

Do our jobs well

We librarians can go too far and push too hard in areas that make no sense to our customers (Steven Bell, “Trying Too Hard for Relevance,”). Librarians need to get over patting themselves on the back at how great they are—how relevant they are—in providing “information” to our users. What “we” need to do is our jobs—and do them well—and the customers will give us value and priority that is most appropriate to them.

The library/librarian value proposition has changed: from keys to the kingdom to keys to all; from do it for you to self-­service; from just in case to just in time; from containers and physical to information, not containers, not physical. The librarian challenge is to identify orthodoxies and propose change. We cannot be self-determined in our relevancy; that determination belongs to those who ask for our help.

—Name withheld upon request


The “Editors’ Spring Picks” feature contains an error: the hero’s sister in Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation is named Enola, not Flavia.

In “Crowdfunding Access to Archives”, “the project team has identified thousands of viral texts, including minor pieces by major authors who were more influential than previously recognized” should have read “minor pieces by major authors that were more influential than previously recognized.” LJ regrets the errors.

This article was published in Library Journal's March 1, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.