Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Library and Traffic Advisory Boards Meet Wednesday - updated

Summary of Annual Report in 1918
January 8th, 1919
Something's awry at the Library. You can read more about it at Save Our Books. They've got rid of the Reference Desk (and some number of Reference Librarians presumably) and been purging books beyond normal weeding practices. Though apologists have defended it as maintenance for a "dynamic collection," it looks rather more like the leading edge of radical change to the whole concept for our library. Is the library for books of enduring value and where you can do research? Or is it mainly for transiently popular best-sellers and where you can chat with your friends? That oversimplifies, and public libraries must do some of both, but each library's balance gets at the matter of focus and purpose. And if it's a change here of any magnitude, more of the community should be involved in the decision.

On Wednesday the 9th, the Salem Public Library Advisory Board will meet at 5:30pm, and if you are interested in a more thoughtful retention and weeding policy, and more generally interested in the uses of a library, consider attending. They meet in the Anderson Room downstairs at the Library.

It is more happy to note that the Citizen Advisory Traffic Commission meets about the same time in City Hall on the third floor, and they'll be talking about the Crosswalk program as well as its more general "advisory functions."

The City, and perhaps the members also, has kept CATC in a more passive, advisory role generally on parking squabbles. It has seemed to be the most underutilized committee formally constituted by the City. It is reasonable for it to comment and advise on other traffic-related matters and it's good to see it involved in the crosswalk project. Even if it might suffer from autoist bias, it's a way formally for citizens to get involved, and as it expands it range of interest and comment, it might also find its way to greater advocacy for better transportation policy and less autoism.

Postscript on the Library, January 9th

On twitter Salem Reporter suggests there was a full house for the Library board meeting.

Materials the library posted suggest they are willfully misunderstanding the criticism, however.

Nobody's complaining about this kind of discard!
They cited examples of discards, but these are books it is easy to select for weeding. It's the books by Mark Hatfield, the history of American Methodism, the poetry of Donald Hall, minor works by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose weeding is contested. They should have engaged the criticism more squarely and not offered a straw man as if the weeding itself was contested.

And again, on library twitter surrogates or allies have no sympathy for Salemites who have questions, and these surrogates seem also to want to misunderstand the criticism as if it was about weeding in general. But they also seem to confirm that there is underway a large-scale shift in collection and in mission.

via Twitter
But there is also good news, very good news!

Hacker is probably Oregon's finest firm for Library Architecture!
Hacker Architects is brilliant with libraries. In a 2007 piece, architecture critic Brian Libby wrote
As I've said before, if Brad Cloepfil is the Pietro Belluschi of our era, the famous name and big talent, then [Thomas] Hacker is A.E. Doyle, the older master who's more quietly creating one dignified, enduring Portland mini-landmark after another.
And in a 2015 retrospective Libby said:
libraries of all sorts have come to shape Hacker's career, whether it's the string of branch libraries his firm designed for Portland (including the Woodstock branch, named one of the ten best libraries in America by the American Library Association and the American Institute of Architects) or several university facilities.

"Libraries are places of discovery," he explained. "I think they’re the most fundamental places for learning and finding answers to things, and finding inspiration, that exists in our society. They are open to everybody. You don’t have to apply to get into them. You can go as an 80 year old or a 12 year old.
Hacker himself is retired, but the firm continues in his name.

Seriously, this is great news, and should yield something interesting and vital even as most of the project requirements are practical and technical.

(But also, the values Hacker espoused about "finding answers" and "finding inspiration" do not seem consistent with the book purge and vision for a "dynamic collection" of popular titles only.)


Jim Scheppke said...

I encourage everyone who cares about this to come to the Library Advisory Board meeting and express your concerns. Many of us will be asking the Library Advisory Board to recommend three things: 1) End the mass book removal project that began in October.
2) Evaluate the 2,000 or so books that were removed and return important, core collection books to the shelves (e. g., the 222 books recommended for core collections in the Wilson guide). 3) In the future, remove books according to the CREW manual guidelines that call for removing roughly the same number of books as are added each year, or up to 5% of the total print collection, whichever is less.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Looks like you had a full house! Hope it went well.

Also updated post with some additional comments.

And good news on the architect. Hacker is surely Oregon's greatest architect for libraries, and this bodes well for the bond project.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Save Our Books has an update, and Salem Reporter also.

Though there will be another hearing on February 13th, it is interesting that the City maintained they will still conduct the purge.

This is so weird. It's like there must be other issues that aren't being discussed publicly for which the debate on weeding is merely a proxy or screen.