Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman

July 2000
Summer Library Conferences

Summer is the time when library associations have their annual conferences. The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) held their convention June 18-21 in Washington, DC and the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference was in Chicago at McCormick Place July 7-11. I attended two days of the ALA conference. It is always a great learning experience to listen to the presentations, to participate in the business meetings, and to meet informally with librarians and vendors. As a professional librarian, I enjoy meet with colleagues and learning from them.

Author Herman Wouk was one of the speakers at AJL. As you know Herman Wouk is a observant Jew, who lives in Palm Beach, California. His most recently published book is The Will to Live On: This Is Our Heritage deals with his Judaism. He spoke about writing and the importance of librarians in his life. He showed appreciation toward the staff of the Library of Congress, who have always been wonderfully helpful to his work. He also described trying to impress the librarians at his local branch of the New York Public Library in The Bronx when he was young by taking out the biggest books he could manage to carry. Mr. Wouk was honored in 1955 with an honorary degree from Yeshiva University and was also a visiting professor there in the 1950's.

At a session sponsored by the rare book and manuscript group, I heard speakers tell about the need to preserve not just information, but the actual objects. One example that demonstrated the need to save the objects concerned an author who wrote a commentary on a manuscript. The author did not understand some of the sections. To another reader who had seen the original it was obvious that the author worked from a microfilm or photocopy. In the original, marginal notes existed that would have made the difficult section clear. The photocopier was a technician who set his camera for the main text, never realizing the marginal notes were also important.

The process of removing books for library collection is called weeding. Libraries remove books to make room for new books. Books are removed because they are no longer valuable to the collection. Another story illustrates that incorrect weeding of collection is nothing new. A library discarded a copy of Shakespeare's first folio when they received the second edition in 1684. The library thought the old edition had no value. Eighty years later they realized their mistake and were able to repurchase the exact copy of the book they gave away. In the 17th century many books were sold without bindings. This library recognized the bindings of the first folio.

In another story a library sold over 100,000 books weeded from their collections by the pound over a ten year period only to later find out many were last copies of important works. Several of these discarded books were worth over $1000. Books are interesting objects because their value depends on factors of informational content and their physical being. We can store the text electronically, photograph them for use in another location, but we can not always get what we need without the original.

I also participated in sessions that dealt with sharing good ideas for publicity, programming and fund raising, a discussion on internet access in libraries, and listened to famous writers talk about their library experiences.
 

Improving Literacy

Sarah Ann Long, director of North Suburban Library System, ended her term as ALA president. In her reports she talked about partnerships of schools, libraries, business people, churches, synagogues [etc.] that would band together for improving literacy. She wants libraries to be the catalysts for improving community literacy.

You may ask, "Are we not the people of the book?" We are, but today literacy is much more than reading books. We need to be literate in all media -- print and electronic. Ms. Long wrote about increasing library use and reading ability as a community goal. She also talked about the need to recognize the value of librarians. Librarians are paid less than other professionals with similar training. There are school librarians with masters degrees and many years experience paid less than beginning teachers with only a BA in the same school.
 

Exhibits

At the ALA exhibit hall, books are still the most wide-spread media. Over 2,000 vendors of supplies, services, and media showed their products. Publishers gave away posters, books and catalogs to encourage librarians to buy more books from their companies. Publishers arranged for authors to sign copies of their books. Other media were also being sold including computer CD-Roms, audio CD-Roms, audio tapes, and video tapes. It is exciting to see that now we can access so much more of the information that we need from a library.

Books on Tape

A few months ago I was introduced to books on tape. Before listening to my first tape, I thought this was a way to avoid reading. Then I tried playing children's tapes in the car. My children were quiet. Listening to a tape is like listening to a performance. The HTC Library has only a few books on tape. On two tapes, Tevye, the Dairyman and The Legend of the Baal-Shem, Theodore Bikel's voice adds to the enjoyment of a story that is not present when reading the book. Some people listen to tapes while cooking or working around the house when they can't hold a book. While recorded books have long been available for the blind, books on tape are now for general public and not just for those with vision problems.


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/liblob.htm. He can be reached via e-mail at: DDStuhlman@earthlink.net.

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©2002 by Daniel D. Stuhlman
Last revised June 14, 2002