How long should a common library book stay in storage if nobody reads it?
At least 15 years – seems to be the answer – according to new information from the managers at the Allen County Public Library.
The library has faced months of public criticism that the collection was purged of millions of items. The library says the collection numbers were miscounted from years of duplicate records.
“We want to make sure that we really understand what we have in storage,” says Director Greta Southard.
“What’s the appropriate protocol to understand whether or not something has longer lasting value?”
Rarity, local and historical value are all key criteria to keep a book in perpetuity. Books that don’t meet any of those criteria would be looked at for removal.
According to numbers provided by the ACPL, 853,254 items are in storage.
Of those, 362,147 have not circulated in 15 years; the majority of those, 235,644, haven’t circulated in 20 years.
In the previous year (May 2018-May 2019), only 3,765 checkouts were made from storage.
Kim Fenoglio, head of the group that petitioned the trustees, cautiously likes the new procedures.
“We like the new, collaborative time frames for weeding. There is no computer-generated algorithm that can ever take the place of the frontline librarians who are the professionals. We are heartened that they will be part of the equation moving forward,” Fenoglio wrote to WANE 15.
“It does cause us concern because these vital changes were implemented only because the Trustees mandated them. The director had no interest in responding to the public’s concerns until she was forced to. Caring for our collection is clearly not a priority for this director and we have little faith in her long-term commitment once oversight lessens.”
Southard contends the ACPL can continue to connect with users and maintain a vibrant collection.
“We have to be a little bit more discerning and really try and focus on purchasing the kinds of materials that we think our community is interested in reading. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re providing welcoming, safe spaces for people to come and gather or play and learn. So it’s not ‘either/or.’ It’s ‘yes and yes,’ if that makes sense.”
Southard says the library has looked at how its public space is used.
“One of the things that came out, by and large for all locations is that people need more collaborative space. So how do we set that in motion?”
“We have space that we need to refresh and add more tables and collaborative space, but (also) private space where people can work one on one or with a tutor, but within within the footprint of the space we have. Because we’re not going to add on to a building so that we can create more private study rooms. So we need to figure out how do we make that happen within the footprint that we have.”