Wednesday, December 21, 2005

1927 A second look at the public library collection

Yesterday I mentioned that there was only one evangelical Christian magazine subscription at our public library, quite lopsided when compared to what might loosely be called the "popular arts" serials. Today I went back and looked at books. There were two titles, both from the early 60s on Lutheranism. Maybe three on Methodists and Baptists, several shelves of Catholicism, and 5-10 each on Amish and Shakers. Except for the Amish books, all looked pretty old just viewing the shelves. I'm not sure what is out there on the history of Lutherans in the United States, but I'm sure something's been published since the early 60s--there have been numerous mergers of synods, if nothing else. Lutherans were pretty clanish and ethnic, so I don't think they had as strong an influence as Methodists (the great awakenings, abolition of slavery, temperance movement, woman's movement) on the American culture. However, this community has one of the larger Lutheran churches in the country and there is a Lutheran college and seminary in Columbus.

Then I stepped into the huge video/DVD section to look at those journals (they are separate from the general content journals) and here's what I found:

Absolute sound
Air Fare (WOSU)
Box Office
Camcorder and computer video
Electronic gaming
Film Comment
Film Quarterly
Film Maker
Films of the Golden Age
Guitar Player
Guitar World
Jazz times
Hollywood life
Perfect Vision
Rolling Stone
Sight and Sound
Sound and Vision
Take One
Widescreen Review

In the other journal section of the reference room there are two Mac and four PC journals, that I noticed. I don't think I'm comparing apples and oranges here. I'm looking at the total serial budget (something the librarians apparently haven't done) and am asking does this breakout reflect the activities and interests of the community, or a few people on the staff? There are two golf titles and three boating titles--and even those seem a bit stunted compared to the popular culture/entertainment titles.

When I was the vet librarian at Ohio State, if I'd purchased one title on dogs and 31 on llamas just because I liked or raised llamas, I think I would have been fired. (Actually, there aren't 31 health or breed journals on llamas--or there wasn't in the 1990s--so this is just hyperbole to make a point, just in case you are a librarian who's a stickler for detail.)


American Daughter said...

Left to their own devices, municipal officials tend to the liberal and the materialistic.

Most libraries will accept, catalog and display gift subscriptions. So private citizens who want to influence the collective thinking of the community often give subscriptions to their public library.

My parents, for example, gave gift subscriptions to the CS Monitor, which in their day was an excellent newspaper. And the editor at that time, Erwin Canham, was someone we knew. (In fact, my memories of his style of journalism are my aimpoint now for ADMC. He was, as they say, a gentleman and a scholar, and made a powerful impression on my youthful mind.)

Anyway, have a wonderful Christmas.

Norma said...

Thank you for your observations.

I've since had a longer discussion with the selector, and learned they use the standard lists--and Christianity Today is the only one listed. Since librarians are 223:1 liberal to conservative, you can see how these lists--on any topic--social, cultural, religious or political--get a little skewed, and then they don't see the reviews that appear in the journals they don't select.

Before offering a gift, it wouldn't hurt to try the suggestion box. Actually, most librarians would be thrilled to get suggestions, especially if you include price, publisher, etc., because then they know at least one person in the community will read it. Otherwise, they are guessing when they buy--an educated guess based on their degree and experience, but still a guess.

Also, once Christians learn (as I did many years ago) that there is nothing for them in the religion section of the PL, they don't seek them there, and either buy what they need, or build up the church library.

And then when bond issue time comes around. . . well, you know what happens. And no one is more surprised that libraries are closing than librarians.

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