The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

12 December 2012

This librarian is not objective

I have been confronted with myself today, as I weed the juvenile graphic novel collection:  I am a biased librarian. I have very little objectivity on the job.
(Explanatory note: weeding is a part of collection maintenance. It entails examining each book in a given section of the library and determining if, whether because of condition, content, or statistics a book should be pulled/withdrawn/discarded, repaired, promoted, or replaced.)

I have noticed it in myself in the past, but today I actually said the words in plain English, "I don't like this book so it's going."  And I don't feel one little bit bad about it. I've put The Tale of Despereaux in the 'Keepsies' pile, while Little vampire, and Little vampire does kung fu! went straight on the 'Toss it' pile. Not because I'm particularly fond of the little mouse and his adventures, but because he's not a vampire. Or a vapid-eyed robot. Or cheeky know-it-all child.

It's one of the perks of the job really, to mold the reading preferences of the young people of New Town. I really should have a superhero costume.


  1. I'm not entirely certain of the morality of your actions (not that I'm one to judge), but I approve of your choices.

    I remember going to my local public library some years ago and being amazed that most of the shelf space was taken up by popular movies (VHS tape rentals at the time) and Harlequin romances.

    Not that I have a problem with either, I just felt that in a library there should also be room for something a bit more compelling.

  2. I struggle with the morality of several things I'm asked during the course of my job. Removing less than savoury books from the children's collection won't keep me up at night. I really do try to be fair and unbiased, but when a decision could go either way, the deciding vote is the one I cast. I promise I use this power only for good!

    As for library real estate given to pop culture and bodice rippers... I could so easily go on a rant about the topic. Should libraries provide whatever the population happens to want, or should we set a higher tone? I am all for the latter, but understand the argument for the former. And sometimes even agree with it.

  3. I had to go to the library to borrow a book a while back and also to get a book my daughter had asked the librarian to put on hold for her, but she wasn't sure if she had read it and asked me to check first before taking it out. So......I asked the librarian if I could see the list of book my daughter had taken out in the last five months and she quickly said, "Oh no! I cannot let you do that. It's a privacy issue that no one but the actual borrower can see that list, but I can check for you."

    I gulped rather hard and asked why I couldn't see my UNDERAGE daughter's list of books borrowed and she again repeated the privacy thingy.

    I was getting a bit ticked and asked, "You mean that if I wanted to check whether my own daughter may be checking out books that I would not approve of you would not let me know?" This woman was someone I knew in the parish, not a stranger. She just tilted her head slightly, smiled and said "I'm sorry."

    I looked at this woman and told her in no uncertain terms that if I could not look at what books my daughter took out that it would be the very last time I and my family would step into the library. She just stare at me, "Linda, I mean it. If I cannot protect my daughter from taking out books I do not approve of even from the library, this is the last day you will see my face in here."

    I saw the list but I already knew what books she had taken out because she would be so excited in taking out a new book she could not keep from showing me each time. But that was not the point. I believe I shook this little lady back into reality of who she was:a practicing Catholic and not just a librarian.

    I know it wasn't her fault, but it wasn't mine either. I was responsible for my daughter and her welfare and censoring her books is part and parcel of that responsibility. I didn't regret confronting her one bit.

  4. Oh dear, this is a tricky issue, Bobby. I understand a parent's (or some parents', anyway) desire to be aware of what their children are exposed to - whether that be the books they are reading or something else. However, libraries are bound by rules of privacy. Because you have a relationship with that particular staff member she provided you the list, but she could have gotten in trouble for doing so.
    I know, I know. In so many ways it seems wrong, and fundamentally I agree In practice it becomes complex and messy: guardianship issues and so on. A public library can't be expected to mediate those situations. Essentially, when you determine your child is responsible enough to have her own card, you surrender your ability to track what she borrows from the library.

  5. This comment was deleted by mistake by the editor. Bad editor! My apologies, Bobby.

    I understand what you are saying Tess and I agree to a certain point, and that point should be when a person who is under our care and a minor to boot for whom we are responsible in every way, shape or manner and have the possibility of having your child taken away because we may at some point have neglected your child as their parent, since we are responsible for them, then we should be allowed to make use of our responsibility in the way that we as parents see fit. In this day and age, we are responsible for our children's actions, yet we are constantly hampered by the state when we DO what is necessary to bring them up to be responsible, mature and caring adults. Makes no sense to me.

    I had a rule in my house when the children were living here. I told them that if there was anything in their rooms that should NOT be there when their mother had to vacuum, sweep, pick up or whatever, then they would have to answer to me. We respected their privacy as long as they respected my rules.

    I'm not coming down on you Tess or the librarians, but SOMEthing has to be done to stop the state from taking away every tool a parent has in protecting his or her child. It has to stop...

  6. I agree with you, I do! I wish the world were such that parents were supported in their difficult task of raising children.