ACPL board sets public meeting over disappearing books

Local News
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The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) board of trustees is scheduled to meet with petition signers and the general public to discuss concerns over perceived book purging. 

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 27, at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library Theater.

The online petition, which has over 2,100 signatures, raises concern that the ACPL has purged its collection and shifted to a “popular materials” philosophy, focusing on “high-interest, high-demand, high-circulating materials. This focus is at the expense of a collection carefully developed and curated over the past 124 years.”

Library officials contend nothing substantial has changed. They say the original number of books was inaccurately calculated and the process for discarding books is routine. 

At the board of trustees meeting in February, the petitioners presented a list of questions they would like answered (see below). The board agreed to a public meeting and temporarily paused the routine weeding of the collection. 

Petition organizer Kim Fenoglio was told in an email from trustee president James E. Williams Jr. that “We will respond to the questions listed in the document titled ‘ACPL Questions’ which you provided on February 28th. After board members have addressed the questions, you will be given 15 minutes to address the board if you wish to do so.”

Additional questions can be submitted by email at trustees@acpl.info no later than Wednesday, March 20.

ACPL Questions

• Yes or no – Has the library adopted a popular materials model?

* We know the Board of Trustees approved on June 28, 2018 a new Collection Development Policy that superseded the one adopted on September 24, 1992.

* Under “Selection Criteria,” the new policy states: “The Library serves the interests of the community and, as such, strives to maintain an ever-evolving collection of popular materials with added breadth and depth in the area of local history.”

* Under “Collection Maintenance,” it also states: “The purpose of the library’s collection is to provide the most high-demand and high-interest materials for the public.”

* Doesn’t this reflect a popular materials model?

• When did the community tell the ACPL that it wanted only popular materials? (This was not one of questions asked on the survey or in public forums during 2017.)

• We know that an average of 10,000 books per week were purged during 2018. That amounts to as many as 520,000 books in one year. Will you generate a report that verifies (or refutes) this number?

• We know that nonprofessional staffers (i.e., shelvers and circulation workers) are now being allowed to weed books. This important responsibility no longer rests in the trusted hands of the professional, degreed librarians. Why was this decision made?

• We know that collection development decisions have been taken away from the branch librarians who know their customers best. How is collection development being handled now, and why was this decision made?

• We know the ACPL has installed a new computer system (Collection HQ) to automate the management of the collection. How was the RFP process handled, and where might we find those records?

• In the Executive Director’s guest column in the Journal-Gazette (dated 2-17-19), she stated that there are currently 697,202 “dead” items on library shelves. Presumably, these will all be discarded. Once they are discarded, how many books will remain in the collection?

• How many books will be in the collection going forward if the 9-18-month, 5-year and 10-year weeding criteria are fully achieved?

• If the main library collection is reduced as drastically as appears imminent, what will happen to all the empty space? Why throw out books if there is room to keep them?

• Is the collection being downsized so radically because of some other initiative, like conversion to a new computer system, so that fewer records will have to be migrated to a new system?

• Have any of you ever spoken to librarians in the branches about how things are going since the weeding process has begun? What did they tell you? We would encourage you to visit the branches and see what’s happening there.

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