Tuesday, August 27, 2013
How you can be a librarian!
Yesterday, in speaking of the virtues of Little Free Libraries, I made some only mildly snarky mention of institutional libraries taking a cue from them in how we develop our own services, and in doing so also contributing to the improvement of Little Free Libraries. If I were you I would have been thinking "But aren't Little Free Libraries already basically perfect?
The answer to that is "NO!" Thank god someone was thinking about Little Free Libraries being perfect so that I could correct them. It's kind of the linchpin of my whole post here! The fact is that I have been keeping a close eye on Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood and they suffer from one important, little mentioned, glaring weakness: People dump terrible books into them. The average Little Free Library I look at is about one quarter real books a person might want to read and three quarters books people seem to have been unable to sell at garage sales. I was recently at the Grand Marais Library and they had a version of a Little Free Library on a section of shelves at the front of their branch. This is totally what I was advocating yesterday! Good for them! Unfortunately that shelf of books was possibly the most pathetic collection of books I have ever seen gathered in one place. It looked a lot like the romance section of my own Library circa 1997, but with the more popular "quality" titles removed. I even had the sad, cynical, fleeting thought that it was all like that just to make their slightly dicey regular collection look better by comparison. But really, it was just neglect. The interesting thing is that this all makes Little Free Libraries actually an argument for the value of librarians. You'd think librarians would be all over this argument for their necessity. But often I get the impression that librarians are conflicted about their roles, sometimes more comfortable with their role being objective (it isn't), and less comfortable with their role as curators (have courage, embrace it!). Well, if they refuse to step up, it is fortunate I have become increasingly comfortable with the idea of anyone being a librarian. If books in a Little Free Library look like bookstore rejects they probably are. Go ahead and take a chance on weeding them. Take all those crappy books to your local brick and mortar Library and donate them. People will buy practically anything. Just don't forget to replace all that drek in that now much emptier Little Free Library with some books you loved. Bam, you're a librarian.