But that’s the great thing about libraries: They don’t make those judgement calls — nor should they. If it’s in the zeitgeist, it should be in the library.
Except that they do. Go to your local library and say to the librarian there, “what should I read next?” And they’ll tell you. I’d wager few would suggest Fifty Shades before many, many other titles.
So, on the one hand, it’s not for librarians to decide what they offer. On the other, it is for them to suggest what you should read. And buying a lot of copies of something is a way of doing that.
There are a few things in this article that I disagree with, but it’s these three paragraphs that are at the crux of it. There’s an abrupt segue here where collection development is suddenly equated to readers’ advisory, and I am not okay with that, because that assumption forms the basis for much of the rest of the article. Buying a lot of copies of something can be a way to suggest a book—but that does not mean that it does.
I’d argue that, when it comes to the finite book budgets of libraries across the nation, good collection development is occasionally at loggerheads with good readers’ advisory, and this is one of those times. Good collection development involves being responsive to the requests of the community, whatever you or any other interested observer thinks of the legitimacy of those requests. Good readers’ advisory involves being well-read, keeping recommended books in the library, and, incidentally, answering the question “what should I read next?” not just with a book handed across the counter, but with a conversation and a list of titles that very probably are not related to the librarian’s personal reading habits.
When a situation like this leads to a tie, in the sense that you’ve got X dollars and you have to figure out the best way to spend it, my feeling is that the tie should go to the patron. It’s not our money. It’s their money, and we are the stewards of it. When I see people say, “Well, I wouldn’t spend $23k that way,” I feel they’re missing the point. Personally, if I had $23k to spend on books, I’d buy 23,000 copies of Stoner by John Williams and use them to construct a small hut in the middle of the Library, where I would take power naps throughout the day, and occasionally throw a dance party. But I don’t have that money; the Library does, and it was given to us by our patrons, who as a result ought to have some say in how it is spent.
We are trusted to spend that money on books that we have professionally evaluated and decided should be in the collection, but we are also trusted to provide items that people are asking for. If demand is high enough for a book that in a system of over half a million cardholders, 300 ebooks are needed to meet it, then that’s where the rubber meets the road in the library business, as my boss would say.
I appreciate that this attitude resonates with Greenfield, but it does more than resonate with me—it is my attitude, and it is how I do my job. (Not just because I actually believe it, by the way, though I do—but also because the collection development policy of my workplace requires it.) Ebooks being accessible in public libraries is a complex issue. There are many ways to improve it, and I agree that libraries will need to change a few things in the process, but it’s beyond the reach of very simple advice.
“I think one of the most damaging effects America’s omnipresent racism has on a person’s psyche isn’t the brief pang of hurt that comes from being called a slur, or seeing a picture of Barack Obama portrayed by a chimpanzee. Those things are common and old-fashioned, and when they happen I tend to feel sadder than angry, because I’m seeing someone who engages with the world like a wall instead of a human being. Rather, I think what’s far more corrosive and insidious, the thing that lingers in the back of my mind the most, is the framework of plausible deniability built up around racism, and how insane that plausible deniability can make a person feel when wielded. How unsure of oneself. How worried that you might be overreacting, oversensitive, irrational.”
-Cord Jefferson “Kanye West Knows You Think He Sounded Nuts on Kimmel”
"It’s not clear whether the situation changed, or if there was something strategic behind the publishers’ cries of poverty. What does seem certain is that, despite their legal setbacks, the major houses have done their part to uphold the value of the book in readers’ eyes. When those publishers came up with the pricing scheme that landed them in trouble, it wasn’t a grab for short-term profit; the details are technical, but the upshot was that the companies actually collect less money for every e-book sold. What they gained in the bargain was the preemptive power to prevent Amazon from lowering prices to unsustainable levels. It was a long-term play to protect the worth of their product—so that, even if the whole business does eventually go digital, there will be enough value built in to support the books of the future."
-Evan Hughes “Books Don’t Want to Be Free: How publishing escaped the cruel fate of other culture industries”
It’s a little more complicated than this, of course, but it’s a good point.
"In my seventeen years as a bookseller and three years as a school librarian before that, if there’s one thing I have noticed, it’s that we adults make all kinds of erroneous assumptions about what will and won’t interest children. Time and time again, at the bookstore and at children’s book festivals, I have observed white children picking up books with kids of color on the cover, and heard adults express surprise at the choice. ‘Are you sure you want that one?’ they’ll ask. Or, ‘Wouldn’t you like this book instead?’ It’s not the kids who are the problem. Kids really, really, really only care about a great story. In twenty years of connecting children with books they love, I have only seen one child—ONE!—balk at a book cover because the main character was a different race from her own. It’s the adults who underestimate a child’s ability or desire to see beyond race."
-Elizabeth Bluemle “True or False? Multicultural Books Don’t Sell”
‘Today’s teendagers are smarter, tougher and braver than my generation - and yours, too’, Laurie Penny (via hymenopterror)
Almost every time I speak to teenagers, particularly young female students who want to talk to me about feminism, I find myself staggered by how much they have read, how creatively they think and how curiously bullshit-resistant they are. Because of the subjects I write about, I am often contacted by young people and I see it as a part of my job to reply to all of them - and doing so has confirmed a suspicions I’ve had for some time. I think that the generation about to hit adulthood is going to be rather brilliant.
Young people getting older is not, in itself, a fascinating new cultural trend. Nonetheless the encroaching adulthood and the people who grew up in a world where expanding technological access collided with the collapse of the neoliberal economic consensus is worth paying attention to. Because these kids are smart, cynical and resilient, and I don’t mind saying that they scare me a little.
"Last night, Manning’s supporters marched on the White House. In a way, the verdict was the best they could reasonably have hoped for, since the “aiding the enemy” charge was rejected. But it still ends with an idealistic young person locked up for life. Manning’s supporters will stay for the sentencing phase, which may last for weeks. They will stay for appeals, which may take years. They could stay forever, but short of a presidential pardon, there is no way for Bradley Manning to walk free.
"In Greece, anarchists spray-painted “Fuck Heroes, Fight Now” on the statue of a general. The media loves to argue whether Manning is a hero or a traitor, but that is beside the point. Heroes and traitors are archetypes. Manning’s a poor kid from Oklahoma who loves Lady Gaga, got into fights and flirted with a hacker who would betray him. He’s a human who did a heroic thing. In that mostly empty courtroom at Fort Meade, other humans do the work of caring for one another, while waiting for the world to notice."
-Molly Crabapple “The Bradley Manning Truth Battalion”
In my ideal reading day there would be no time limit, no e-mails stacking up, and dinner would appear on a floating tablecloth, as if brought by spirit hands. In practice, this never happens. I read in snatched hours on trains, or late at night, or purposively and on a schedule, with pen in hand and a frown of concentration. But when I think harder . . . my ideal reading experience would involve time travel. I’d be 14, and in my hand would be the orange tickets that admitted to the adult section of the public library. Everything would be before me, and I would be ignorant of the shabby little compromises that novelists make, and I would be unaware that many nonfiction books are just rehashes of previous books by other writers. My eyes would be fresh. I would be chasing glory.Hilary Mantel: By the Book
(Source: The New York Times)
Sometimes the corrections are the best part of the article:
"An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the products sold at By Brooklyn. The store does not sell dandelion and burdock soda, lovage soda syrup, and Early Bird granola ‘gathered in Brooklyn.’
"An earlier version also referred incorrectly to the thoroughfare that contains the thrift shop Vice Versa. It is Bedford Avenue, not Bedford Street, or Bedfoprd Avenue, as stated in an earlier correction."
-corrections to “How I Became a Hipster” by Henry Alford
(Source: The New York Times)
WHEN I HEARD EL KONIGSBURG DIED AND I FLASHED BACK TO BEING SEVEN AND READING THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS BASIL E FRANKWEILER AND BELIEVING THAT NEW YORK WAS A MAGICAL BEAUTIFUL PLACE AND KNOWING ONE DAY I WOULD LIVE THERE IF I SET MY MIND TO IT
"Jamie squinted his eyes and said, ‘Make it complicated, Claude. I like complications.’
"Claudia laughed. ‘It’s got to be simple to work. We’ll go on Wednesday because Wednesday is music lesson day. I’m taking my violin out of its case and am packing it full of clothes. You do the same with your trumpet case. Take as much clean underwear as possible and socks and at least one other shirt with you.’
“‘All in a trumpet case? I should have taken up the bass fiddle.’”