Friday, June 5, 2009

250 Words: Collection Choices of the Past

It seems the Nationwide trend is to make collections more entertainment oriented in Public Libraries. Collections have more popular works, movies, music, which move faster. There are more computers to make the Internet available. It also seems older collections are being removed to make room for newer material. One of the attitudes I have seen is "if a nearby library has the it, we don't need it."

I have said there are legitimate reasons to remove books from a collection. Lack of use is one reason. Let me make a short case for keeping books which may not be used.

SPL has been a Depository Library for almost 130 years. We have long runs of unbroken annuals. Two examples are the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac from 1912 and the Statistical Abstract of the US from 1907. We are still receiving physical copies of both through FDLP. Neither are used extensively. The California State Library has complete sets.

If CSL has them do we need them? No, we don't.

Should we keep them? Yes, we should.

Before current staff were in place, the Library was collecting these titles. We don't know what future staff will do with the collection. I think there should be a continuity of thinking throughout the life of the Library about certain elements of the collection. Do we owe staff of the past the obligation to continue their collection choices? Does future staff owe us a similar obligation?

Gerald F. Ward

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