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Librarian responds RE: Bad things/good books


As a librarian, archivist, digital archivist, book artist, and general book
lover, I have to respond to this.

Yes, we as librarians stamp and tape and security strip and cover and do
just about anything we can to library items, including books, as a way of
keeping them part of the collection.  There may be better ways of keeping
valuable books safe, but most libraries can't afford them -- and I can't
think of any off hand.  Most libraries have trouble affording the books
their clients want, much less multiple copies or fancy electronic security
systems (much less a security guard or two).

Just think about it: First edition Stephen King's are worth more than an
item printed by Aldus M.  Neither one of these items started out being
worth megabucks, but over time, they've become scarce and therefore more
valuable.  If you leave a King book unstickered and stamped, just sitting
on the library shelf, you're going to be one book short pretty soon when
that book walks itself down to the local rare book dealer.

When a librarian purchases a King book for the collection, s/he isn't
purchasing the future valuable first edition.  S/he is purchasing a popular
novel that will be read by the general public (in their house, on the bus,
in the tub, while drinking coffee & eating sticky cinnamon rolls, etc.).
This item will be READ, it will be USED, it's spine will be broken on the
copier machine, it will be rebound in really ugly bookcloth when it falls
apart. If the librarian doesn't put all of the security stuff on the book,
they risk books getting lost or stolen.

Yes, many books are stolen from libraries every day, and for every book
that is stolen, there are more people wanting to read that book. The pages
you want are ripped out of the encyclopedia by someone who didn't want to
use the copier, and most libraries can't afford to purchase multiple
reference books (have you seen those prices?).   For every book we don't
stamp and security strip and tape, you the tax-paying citizen lose out.
The book budget is set, we don't have any more money, so we can't purchase
another copy of the book.

I think we have to think about the different uses of books, which books are
meant as works of art, which have historical significance (and try judging
that the day you send your book order in to the book jobber!), and which
are meant to be read, worn down, and eventually meant to fall apart and be
sold for $0.25 at the library book sale. Some are somewhat disposable,
others most definitely are not -- but rarely can this be known the day you
purchase the book. Decades down the line, maybe, but not the day you have
45 folks in line for the new Grisham.

I think this varies greatly with the type of library as well.   Academic
libraries probably end up purchasing or being gifted with items that will
be more valuable (except for the first editions of popular mystery
writers).  These items will be treated differently than popular materials
at the local public library, but they are still in danger of being taken or
defaced by anyone.

When a private collector donates their collection to an archive, the
archive has to figure out a way to keep that material from being 'taken'
for someone else's collection. When you visit an archive, they take away
your belongings, hand you a pencil and yellow paper, and watch your every
move -- that is part of the archivist's job unfortunately.  Which is worse:
to deface the book with stamps and tape, or to leave the book pristine and
tempting for the sticky-fingered collector who thinks library=free bookshop.

>From the spate of recent thefts we've seen on this list, valuable books
aren't safe from anyone who wants to take them, cut them apart, sell them
page by page, or read them while drinking coffee in the tub (although, I
tend to drink soda, not coffee while reading in the tub).  They're not even
safe from us -- printers, book artists, archivists, or librarians -- all of
whom have been ones responsible for recent thefts or defacement plans.

Please, don't curse all librarians for defacement.  What we're doing is our
best to make sure that everyone has equal access to the materials. That's
our job -- to uphold Freedom of Speech in the form of Freedom to Read --
regardless of how much you make or what language you read.  In order to
make sure the materials are still around when YOU come in to read them, we
have to take precautions.  Because of funding (and lack thereof), we have
to use the cheapest, easiest ways of keeping materials safe from
collectors.  Even then, we're often thwarted, but we have to try.

And, being a librarian, I have to type: I believe Pogo, not Snoopy, warned
us against ourselves as the enemy.

Mary McCarthy
ACLIN Support Librarian
Colorado State Library/BCR

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