Friday, January 05, 2007


A book is not forever

According to this story in the Washington Post (courtesy of Jon Swift), librarians have begun drinking the Darwinian Kool-Aid. Which is to say, they're using computer technology to weed out the ink-and-paper weaklings: the books nobody wants to take out. In theory this is just dandy. Libraries contain limited shelf space, after all, and somebody's got to cull the herd. The director of the Fairfax County (VA) Library System is quite frank about his brand of tough love:
"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost."
Okay, you can pulp some of the tulip books. But what about the other authors being expelled from the shelves? Apparently the losers include Marcel Proust, Thomas Hardy, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak, Gertrude Stein, Eugene O'Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and George Eliot. Even Virgil has failed to hit his quarterly numbers and may be escorted off the premises. Drat.

Gone are the days when a weird and bookish kid (I confess, I confess...)could consider the library a sanctuary from 'all that', governed by its own spinsterishly high-minded principles. 'All that' is now officially everywhere, and the very tomes a bookish weirdo might've found the most comfort (and inspiration) in will be shoved off the shelves to make way for sports 'biographies' and picture books about The Rapture. The process will be complete when everyone starts scrolling through those damned cell phone 'novels' you posted about earlier, to the exclusion of bothersome, stuffy old backpack-deforming brain-strainers like Nabokov, and the Reducing Valve on the Capitalist Intellect twists ever tighter...(on the other hand, Gertrude Stein DOES get on my nerves...just kidding...)
The whole thing makes me sad and mad. Where can this sort of thing lead?
I think many of the books in the Library need to be culled. Wish they would do it at the one I go to!
Yes but do they need those books at *every* library? Perhaps one or two libraries within an inter-library loan system ... ? Much as a respect the classics, how many people actually read them?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?