Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If I were King of the Library, the third decree

While I am not very qualified to speak to library collection issues I have found that qualification is not a harbinger of quality. If I rattle this around in my jar of passions for a bit I can usually find for myself enough license to talk about anything. I'm not sure that passion is any more a harbinger of quality than qualification, but if you can mix in a dram or two each of application and love, you are there, and your quality chances positively soar. So it is in this vein that I hope here to weigh in, and since I'm King, how I hope to rule too.

The problem that I find myself repeatedly slamming into around my cities various public library collections is twofold. One, I find a distinct lack of guiding passion. Loved items surely circulate thickly in the collection, but they remain unemphasized, unprotected, and undifferentiated. Two, librarians are fine when it comes to buying "New" items because every device of popularity and capitalism is geared to it. Stocking the classics is handled almost as well, especially if they are old enough and classic enough. But there is a middle ground here that I consider the soul of a library collection. It consists of half classics, lost classics, and the truly great books that 25 years or 40 years or 100 years on have been buried under the constant shower of new books. Ever so steadily, from age, wear, abandonment, and the ceaseless occlusion of new things, these simply erode out of our library systems and our cultural consciousness.

The King is here to save the soul of the library, and here is the decree to do it.

Every person who works for the library gets to choose five items of any currently circulating type, and a minimum of three copies of each of these will be kept and maintained in the collection for all time. These items will constitute a special collection all housed together, a library within the library.

There is loads of fine print and details that go with this.

1. Items are vested only among employees who have worked more than five years. If someone leaves before five years their choices are not protected and can be weeded or allowed to fade away.

2. Staff is not required to fill their quota of choices, but choices are non transferable.

3. Staff are entitled to remove their choice at any time, but not to replace it.

4. After the fifth year of employment staff is allowed one new pick at each new full year of employment.

5. All choices must be accompanied by an explanation of why the item was chosen. This will be prominently featured along with the staff member's name and the origin date of the choice.

6. Staff are urged to consider things that aren't already very safe on the regular shelves, but if they want to spend a choice on Pride and Prejudice that's up to them.

7. Staff has to formally attest to loving each item they have chosen. This will be done by signing their name to a front piece in the book that says "I affirm that I have chosen and love this book (or cd or whatever). 

So it is decreed, this day, etc. etc.

The King

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