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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Should Libraries Return to Their Core Business?


At a time when so many libraries are having to cut back on the number of hours, or even days, they are open, here's an interesting choice for library patrons to consider:
1.  Continue to add new DVD, CD and e-book material at the current pace by reducing the number of hours the library doors are open, or 
2.  Focus more heavily on the library's core business of making books, magazines, and newspapers available to patrons and maintain present library hours
My own library, part of the Harris County Library system, decided several months ago that it could no longer afford to offer its services on Sundays, a decision that has caused me problems ever since - yet it continues to stuff its shelves with the latest movies and pop music.  If money is so tight that the system can no longer support the costs of keeping its branches open for the few hours they used to be open on Sundays, whey continue to throw money at what is, more times than not, just junk?

According to the Toronto News, that city's budget chief is asking the same question:
“Should the city library become a Blockbuster?” Del Grande said. “Is that what we should be doing? Is that our core program or is that program creep?”
[...]
“Are we an international library? What proportion of our budget should go for non-English movies and books, etc.? The argument would be made this is what makes the city great, but I would dare say our common language is English.”
“We’re spending tons of money for ESL. Should we not have a discussion of how much of the library budget should go for non-English resources? And if we are to be an international language library, let’s talk about how we do that. But right now, we are a computer centre, we’re in the movie business, we’re in the circulation business of non-English language programming.” 
It's an interesting debate, for sure.  Personally, I would prefer to have my Sunday hours back (as, I'm sure, would those library employees having to make do with smaller paychecks) and fewer movies and pop albums on the shelves.  Others, I'm sure, would vote for the first option.
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