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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"So Long, Hemingway?"

I just visted Dark Orpheus, and her post reminded me of the article I read by Camille Paglia on Salon. Looked it up and here is the link. The interview covers some of her political observations, not literary criticism. Her new book, Break, Blow, Burn sounds fascinating, so I ordered it.

3:00 PM Jeez! I thought I published this before I left the house to meet the Tai Chi in the Park group. And here it still sits...a draft.

However, I've discovered another interesting article about Library Purging, which only relates something I recently realized to be true. Several times lately, I've looked for books that my library had previously had on the shelves (some classic, some just books that I wanted to read again - which is why I had to order The Lady in White in the fall). Not all of the books purged are old, they are simply the ones that have not been checked out in a certain period of time and that probably depends on the library's space considerations. I do understand that in order keep purchasing and shelving new books, libraries must make room for them and that sometimes the decisions of which books to cull are difficult ones. But so much trash is written and published and purchased by libraries (I ought to know as I read a great many books that have no lasting value beyond the entertainment of the moment) and these should be the first to go.

I'm glad I'm not a librarian - I wouldn't want to make those decisions, and I wouldn't want to have to take all the rejects home with me, which would be my tendecy.


  1. Making those decisions is usually not as hard as you might think. But certainly the Post did a better job discussing the issues associated with weeding a collection than most media outlets do.

    What gives specific libraries their character (and in many instances their valuable special collections) has been that one passionate librarian on staff who has a vision of what might be good in service to a community and who has had the capacity to communicate her passion to whatever oversight may be in place.

  2. Oh, today's bookplate is GREAT! =-)
    And yes, the eyes in that portrait are so warm...

  3. Jill - Well, I am glad that librarians often do have a lot of passion for their field - much more so than one might find in other areas. Our library is excellent, and I am so grateful. We don't have a special collection per se, although there is an adjoing building that houses local history.

    Debby - :) Thanks! I do love these bookplates! Most of his portraits (yes, I cheat and look at all of the pages with pictures first), have those twinkling eyes. I don't think that is typical of most portraits of the time. Voltaire was a genius, but his portrait charms rather than intimidates.

  4. Jenclair, I'm glad I don't have this responsibility in my library, too! I see it done, and it's something that's beyond me. My direct supervisor does a lot of "weeding," and I'm afraid she's fairly cold-blooded about it. They do go largely on numbers, judging a book by the last time it was checked out, how many times it's been checked out or interlibrary loaned, etc. I guess they really must do so, but it does seem a shame, I agree, when a classic is weeded out...

    On a happier note, I run my library's online classics group and have been ordering in massive quantities of the classics I'm choosing for discussion. If I can't control supply from one end I'll try the other!

  5. I always cringe when I see cartloads of books waiting to be discarded at my library. Some are so dated that it is understandable they need to go and something new needs to take its place, but how do you weed fiction? That would be too hard for me!

  6. I wouldn't want to make those decisions either, but I have to say that I have benefited from some nice books from library book sales.

  7. Bluestalking - :) Good for you! What fun to be able to choose what to order. So much better than choosing what to discard!

    Danielle - Me, too! I'm afraid I'd make a list, and the powers that be would come back and say, "MORE! You must discard MORE!"

    Carl - I've benefitted from library book sales,too. That part isn't so bad.

  8. Just a note to let you all know that the library community is also aware of that Washington Post article which in turn has also been remarked upon by the Wall Street Journal and the American Spectator. Steven at Library Stuff has the links today:

    The Wall Street Journal certainly got me going - libraries are welfare for the middle-class?

  9. The Kingstown branch of the Fairfax County Library System was "my" library until I moved away about a year ago. I'm sorry to read that they are taking the statistical approach to deacquisitioning.

    Poor circulation numbers is not a good reason to remove Emily Dickinson's book from the shelves. But librarians don't want to take the responsibility for saying "This is a good book; it must remain available." That would be "judgemental," which we are taught is a very bad attitude.



  10. Thanks for the link, Jill! I'm glad to see that this policy is going to get further scrutiny. And I agree, if libraries are more concerned with best-sellers than good literature, then they are becoming welfare for the middle-class, rather than bastions of learning and culture. I followed several of the links and feel better about the situation. Let them discard an old Baldacci or Stephen King or John Grisham if circulation is down and something must go. But not Faulkner, Bronte, or Proust.

    Mary - I expect librarians to be well-read and knowledgable enough to make good decisions. How sad to think that they are being taught to abandon one of the most crucial assets of any reader.

  11. Hope you enjoy "Break, Burn, Blow." It's Camille as teacher, and any book that allows us to read more poetry is always welcomed. I remember it as the book I read on Christmas in 2005. Odd, how I can pin a date on certain books.

    How long have you been doing Tai Chi?

  12. dark orpheous - I am really looking forward to this book, partly because of the poems mentioned. I love seeing what others think about my favorites, and I also enjoy it when they can make me re-evaluate something I didn't care that much for.

    I've been doing Tai Chi for 5 1/2 years. It has many of the same effects as Yoga, but is in continual motion.

  13. I'm also a librarian. Weeding is one of those horrid necessities, both from the standpoint of shelf space and the ravages of non-acid-free paper. I'm lucky: we all weed, but we also pass our weeding carts past another librarian, so we rarely lose something shameful - although I have had to fight for things like complete editions of Henry James!


  14. I wonder about donating the books to libraries that have very little and can't afford new books...