February 17, 2018

Feedback: Letters to LJ, April 15, 2016 Issue

“Libraries are one of the last places of refuge where one can find solitude…. Libraries should remain…as they have always been”

The last refuge

Why do people think they have to be entertained at all times and places (Lisa Peet, ALA Launches ‘Libraries Transform’ Campaign)? We are being dumbed down enough with all the intrusions of today’s culture. Libraries are one of the last places of refuge where one can find solitude. Libraries should remain “libraries” as they have always been. The best thing the American Library Association (ALA) can do for people is to let libraries be silent places where one can get in touch with intellectual endeavors, be it reading, studying, doing research, or just plain thinking. There are other places to go for entertainment, so why try to compete with them? It makes me sad to see libraries going this route. I think it is a big mistake libraries will regret in the future.

—Name withheld

For the devil

“Do you tiptoe around the devil’s advocate in your institution?… It’s hard to cultivate new ideas when the director or another person with power is a naysayer” (Michael Stephens, Speak of the Devil).

It can [be], if you’re [not] prepared to back up your argument. “Devil’s advocate” works in the hypothetical to challenge the idea and test its mettle. While I don’t condone using the technique to shut down innovation or ideas, that isn’t the point of the exercise, and like any rhetorical tool it will be misused. It doesn’t mean that devil’s advocate doesn’t have a use to work out an idea or challenge a brainstorming session or individual to expand their thinking.

The inverse is something I would fear worse: the Tyranny of Positivity, where any negative response or dissension is unwelcome, and those who disagree with that meeting’s group-think are shut out of future meetings or have their ideas dismissed out of hand. These tactics are used by groups to silence opposition, not foster positive communication. It’s tone policing at best, speech control at worst. I would rather advocate for the devil than nod with the crowd.

—Name withheld

Demise of CLA

I have to agree with John Berry (The Wrong Umbrella). I joined the Canadian Library Association (CLA) in the early 2000s as a personal member only to witness a slow demise. The inability to do things differently has meant an inevitable downward spiral. My decision as to whether I should continue paying dues came as a result of reading about the lack of courage to make recommended changes in the ­MacDonald White Paper. I think that was the beginning of the end…. I don’t see myself with a personal voice on issues that matter to me in my work and profession in this “new and improved” association.

All that’s left is to have the wake and be done with it. I’ll be watching Librarianship.­ca to see how it will take on that personal voice for me in Canada.

—Name withheld

Audio with print

Great article (Ian Chant, Research: Library Large Print Still Needed). Just wanted to add that large print prevents eye strain, helping people who are not visually impaired but like to read a lot. It is also extremely helpful for people learning English as a second language, especially if the characters/­symbols in their first language are different from English as with Russian, Arabic, and Chinese, to name a few.

Additionally, not everyone is comfortable “reading” audiobooks. Part of the reason is that listening and reading are processed by different parts of the brain. For people who love to read [who] are losing their vision and having a hard time adjusting to audiobooks, have them try reading large print while listening to the same title in an unabridged audiobook. I have found that most people are able to make the adjustment and enjoy audiobooks after “double reading” just a few titles.

—Cora McGovern, Info Svcs., San Francisco PL

A better idea?

The referendum wasn’t defeated because of robocalling (Lisa Peet, Plainfield Library District Referenda Lose to Robocalling). I didn’t receive a robocall or mailer. It lost because people are fed up with the constant barrage of the latest and greatest money-sucking project that is on every single ballot year after year. They say $14.91 a month [is] only $180 a year—that’s if you don’t count all the referenda that have been on the ballot every year and have passed. The $180 is added to an already herculean burden put on the taxpayers. Are the powers that be, governments, school districts, libraries, any taxing body, aware of the financial burden the taxpayers have been under these last ten years? My taxes have gone up consistently every year for the last 20 years. Schools (that will soon be empty), libraries (that no one goes to), raises for politicians they do not deserve, all on top of that $180 a year. So let’s not say “robocalls defeated another referendum.” Let’s say “the intelligent taxpayers have a better idea how to spend their money than the taxing bodies.”

—Name withheld

This article was published in Library Journal's April 15, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. True Dat says:

    There are some cranky anonymous people out there.