The Desperation of a Public Library

The best way to subjugate and control a people is to keep them ignorant of alternative possibilities and dull their imaginations by depriving them of a good variety of books.
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Kristen Twardowski

These days public libraries operate on desperation as often as they run on anything else. This recently drove several library staff to do something a little reckless.

Culling library collections often relies on numbers. If a patron checks out a book, that book is safe in the system. If a book isn’t checked out for a certain period of time, however, that book is often placed on a to-be-culled list. These lists don’t take into account whether or not a book is considered a classic, was written by a famous author, or has regional value. It only looks at circulation numbers.

To get around this system, several librarians at Florida’s East Lake County Library created a fictitious library patron, Chuck Finley. Named after a retired major league baseball pitcher, Finley would be their savior. During 2016, Finley checked out 2,361 books from the library. These books varied and included titles by…

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  1. Libraries now want their collections to look fresh and inviting, not beat-up, tired and grubby. That means not only the most recently published books, but decent copies of classics. In my experience, circulation numbers are important, but not the only criterion, but different libraries may use different criteria. There is also the issue of books that have gone out of print. It may no longer be possible to buy copies, at least at reasonable prices. It’s a juggling act.

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