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CLASSICAL  June 2006

CLASSICAL June 2006

Subject:

Re: My Catalog

From:

Roger Hecht <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 14 Jun 2006 14:03:40 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Karl wrote:

>There is a difference between archives and libraries.  The trend in
>libraries seems to be more towards the grocery store mentality...if it
>doesn't circulate, get rid of it.  That is true for public libraries as
>well as "research" libraries.  This is what is being taught in library
>schools and is more and more, becoming practice.

Absolutely true.  I've recently been through a major purge of the
collection.  To my own eternal credit, I think I for now managed to save
the scores and the music collection from depredation.  And fortunately,
I'm apparently good at ordering classical CDs.  There was thought of
dumping them until the powers that be found they circulate extremely
well--better than many items, just under videos.  And fortunately, I
won another battle: the scores, many of which have been miscatalogued
for years, are being reorganized by me and another interested librarian.
Fortunately again, we have enough of a public that is interested in music
for me to have an argument.  But I'm still worried about the scores.
They don't circulate very well, but we're going to try to put the word
out that we have them.  There are a lot of aspiring conductors in the
Boston area, for one thing.

Bottom line.  Too many librarians see their collections as burdens, not
assets.  They'd much rather run an Internet cafe and coffee house.


>I recently posed questions regarding this on the email list of the
>Association for Recorded Sound Collections.  Most of us on the list are,
>or have been, archivists.  The stories of collections being refused,
>things being sold are horrific.  I sincerely believe that libraries have
>lost their way.  As for archives, they just haven't discovered cost
>recovery and/or the need for it.  Many archives will no longer accept
>collections unless an endowment comes along with the materials.

Another reason for worry.  If they want to dump the scores in the future,
and I'm still there, I'm going to fight to be put in charge of where
they go.

>When we had an active collecting program here at our University, I
>would often have the opportunity to acquire materials refused by other
>collections...in at least one instance...some materials made their way
>to releases on Pearl and Arbiter.

We still take CD donations. Again, because they circulate.

>Sorry for dragging on about libraries, but I sincerely believe they
>have lost their way.

Absolutely. In a number of ways.

1) The circulation mentality combined with their perceived need to be
a community center.  They look at Barnes and Noble, see all the coffee
shops, and think that's what they have to do to compete--open up coffee
shops.  It never occurs to them that people go into B&N for the books
as well as the coffee and socializing.  Indeed, want some of the new
Oxford translations of Zola?  You just may have to go to B&N or Borders.
They're not that easy to find in public libraries.  The same is true of
many books and editions.

2) The Internet.  It's just about killed reference services.  Can't
do much about that.  But this is a very complex issue--the Internet vs.
reference books--that I'm not going to go into here.  Suffice it to say
that the Internet can do miracles if you know how to use it.

The real issue with the Internet is that libraries have not faced the
serious problems involved with it.  They're afraid to censor content,
for one thing so many libraries have turned into combination game rooms,
gambling casinos, stock markets, chat rooms, and adult book stores.  Yes,
the notion of censorship is repugnant--at least to me--but librarians
censor every day when they order books, select magazines, etc.  Why they
call controlling content on the Net censorship is beyond me.  (I say
this without discussing the logistics involved in controlling content,
other than to say they're difficult but I don't think impossible.) As a
result, some libraries are becoming less attractive to the average user
who is not thrilled with sharing space with noisy kids playing games
and fooling around, not to mention perverts checking out pornography. 
Nor to mention all the wackos who come into the Net room.  Almost all of
our problems with misbehavior nasty incidents occur in the Internet room.
And don't forget who uses email in libraries.  It's my belief that many
of these people use the library email to remain anonymous.  Once libraries
talked about preserving privacy--fine, but now we're providing anonymity,
as well.

As Karl says, in this market economy with its emphasis on today as
opposed to holding important, but weak-circulating items for that
occasional user who will find them valuable, enlightening and enriching,
libraries have lost their way.  Some of this is born of the need to
please the masses, some to please city government, but most of it goes
right along with the rest of the dumbing down of society.  Nor does it
just happen.  As Karl says, it's being taught in library school: give
them what they want.

>They will never be able to compete with Yahoo and
>Google...or even Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Until ebooks reach a point where they're truly readable, public libraries
would do well to return to their roots as lending institutions.  Provide
the Internet for research, but lending is what libraries have always
done very well.  Let someone else provide porn on the Net--and someone
will--and face the fact that reference is all but dead in public libraries
(which is not to say that libraries shouldn't provide it as needed--including
expertise on Net researching).  Meanwhile, we could be more proactive.
I'm always surprised to find how shocked patrons are when they find out
that we can provide reader services, like advising on books, literature,
music (especially!), etc.  Believe it or not, very few people realize
libraries do this--I should add, any more, because we used to.  We need
to return to it.

As to how to go about this, well this is a music list, so I'll stop here.

Roger Hecht

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