Monday, September 27, 2010

Library Outsourcing

So - the lovely Anna asked me what I thought about the whole outsourcing libraries thing that's all a kerfuffle right now and I ended up ranting and I feel like rambling in my blog now. Does anybody mind? I hope not. Here's what I said to her:

As Maureen Johnson said, how will outsourcers deal with book banning requests? I worry that outsourcing will have people worrying more about the bottom line and the library's image instead of the greater good. Sanitized libraries. We do so many programs that don't necessarily raise our circs (which would probably be the bottom line for a library?) but benefit the community.

having a preschool fair in a week or so - We've invited local preschools to come and set up booths in our huge room over on 95th street to educate the locals about what their options are. Does this help the library? Not really, but it helps our patrons. Why would a for profit company have a fair that tells parents, basically, instead of bringing your kids to storytime every day why not send them to preschool? That's not what we're doing, obvs, but I could see some corporate muckity muck thinking that way.

Also - collection development. I weed my collection fairy regularly. My goal is that each collection will have an average of 12 circs per item per year. Some books (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc.) will always have holds on them and thus will have 20 or more circs per year. Those books make it possible for me to keep books in the collection that only circ 4 or 5 times per year - and even some pet books that circ maybe once per year. But they're good books! And a kid is going to benefit from those books! So I will keep them until they fall apart - and maybe not reorder them, but not necessarily get rid of them, ya know?

I can see a for-profit library looking at, say, El Lector and say, "This book rarely circs. Why is it in the collection? GET RID OF IT!" But I think it has value. I think some kid is going to need that book. So I'm going to let it circ until it falls apart.

And that's what I think about library outsourcing.

1 comment:

anna said...

I really think it depends on how the system defines "productive" and "work." If they consider libraries to be merely book vendors, then the worries you have are definitely valid. On the other hand, if they recognize the other roles libraries can fill, perhaps the fact that they're encouraging librarians to do more--more than staff circ desks, is where I'm holding my hope--might not necessarily be negative. Focusing on programming and the things that require our skills means that we get to maintain the idea of librarianship being a profession and not just a job, which we want.

I like to be hopeful, and what I've read about it gives the impression that after a while with the new system, users and staff are less aggravated, which could either mean that they're hiring people who don't have higher ambitions, or they're not violating the ideals of those people. I hope for the latter.

And my captcha for this comment is "doc who." Really.