Two views on libraries pt. 2

2 – The public library is a place for reference, research and books. In this view, in order to justify public financing the library should provide “a baseline of access to literature for those of modest means.” That definition, from a recent commentary by Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, precludes access to materials like DVDs and other digital media, pop music, and unfiltered internet. Schneider is concerned that tax dollars are being wasted on entertainment materials while the educational aspect of libraries is being pushed aside. It is certainly true that libraries now carry a wide variety of media and genres. Many small libraries in particular have become “popular material libraries” rather than places of research. This means collection development (how we decide what items to purchase) is based on mainstream “top 10” lists–the New York Times, Billboard, highest grossing films, etc. Typically, these items are not what are considered “literature” by Mr. Schneider or those who share his opinions. In fact, library circulation is at an all-time high in Wisconsin and this is largely due to the popular material library model. So is it worth it? Should tax dollars be used to supply people with a place for research and entertainment? What criteria should librarians use to make their purchases?

spb/kpl

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